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                                    Anhinga

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Anhinga - Male

Wild Fowl Trust, Pointe-A-Pierre

Anhingas have a long thin neck with a long pointed yellow bill that has sharp serrated edges. The head is small and appears as if it is an extension of the neck. Black all over with silvery white feathers on the upper back and wings. The tail is long with a band across the tip and is spread during flight. The feet are webbed. Females differ from the males in that they have a brown head and neck. The immature are similar to the adult female. It's size is between 75-95 cm (30-37 in) with wingspan of 109 cm (43 in) and weight of 1325-1350 g (46.77-47.66 ounces).

It is found in both Trinidad and Tobago at rivers and reservoirs, especially those bordered by trees. They prefer having trees close by because their feathers are not waterproof, so they need to roost to dry their feathers. It is therefore often seen drying its feathers with the wings outstretched. The body feathers become completely wet upon contact with the water, allowing it to be able to dive through the water more easily. This feature, however, causes it to have little buoyancy, to lose heat quickly and hinders flight, thus the need to regularly dry the feathers.

An Anhinga starts its flight by either running on the surface of the water or diving from a tree. It usually returns to the water by gliding into it from a perch or crawling into it from land.They use a variety of techniques for catching prey; diving under water, from the surface or while flying over water or from a perch. Feeds primarily on fish, also eats aquatic insects, crayfish, leeches, shrimps, tadpoles, eggs of frogs, young alligators and water snakes.  When swimming only the head and neck are visible above water due to its low buoyancy and the neck has an "S" like appearance. The "S" appearance has given rise to the name "Snake Bird". They propel themselves using their feet and use their bill to spear the prey. On the surface they toss the prey into the air and then catch the prey in their bill and swallow. Although not a particularly fast swimmer, it is an effective aquatic hunter, targeting slower-moving species of fish and relying on its quick neck and sharp bill to catch the prey.

Anhingas are generally solitary birds and not seen with other anhingas, but at times is found among groups of herons, cormorants, ibises, or storks. It however nests in small loose groups with its species. Normally a quiet bird, its vocalizations include clicks, rattles, croaks, and grunts. It typically calls while on or near the nest, and occasionally while flying or perching. It is particularly silent and elusive when flightless due to molting.

This bird is sometimes confused with a cormorant but can be distinguished because of the long snakelike neck, longer tail and silver white feathers on the back of the wings. Other differences are that the cormorant is a more powerful swimmer and thus able to hunt faster-swimming fish, whereas the Anhinga is much slower in the water and therefore hunts slower-swimming fish. Anhinga is able to soar, but requires gliding flights from trees in order to start flight, unlike the cormorant that is not able to soar and can easily take off from the water.

Family - Darters

Other Names - American Darter, Snake Bird, Water Turkey

Latin Name - Anhinga anhinga

Range - Southern US through Central America and in South America from Colombia to Ecuador, east of the Andes to Argentina, and in Trinidad and Tobago

 

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Anhinga - Female

Bon Accord, Tobago

 

 

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Anhinga - Male

Wild Fowl Trust, Pointe-A-Pierre

 

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Anhinga - Male

Wild Fowl Trust, Pointe-A-Pierre

References

Kearns, L. 2001. "Anhinga anhinga" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Anhinga_anhinga.html.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds, at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/programs/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Anhinga_dtl.html

Florida Breeding Bird Atlas, at http://www.wildflorida.org/bba/ANHI.htm

Illinois Natural Resources Information Network (INRIN) at http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/chf/pub/ifwis/birds/anhinga.html

Georgia Wildlife Web at http://museum.nhm.uga.edu/gawildlife/birds/pelecaniformes/aanhinga.html

The Birds of Wakodahatchee Wetlands at http://www.pbcwater.com/wakodahatchee/Anhinga.htm

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 2003, January 6. Florida's breeding bird atlas: A collaborative study of Florida's birdlife. http://www.wildflorida.org/bba/ANHI.htm

DeGraaf, Richard M., Virgil E. Scott, R.H. Hamre, Liz Ernst, and Stanley H. Anderson. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States natural history and habitat use. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Agriculture Handbook 688. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/forest/forest.htm

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds of the World, David Alderton. 2004 Lorenz Books, London

A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 2nd edition, Richard ffrench. 1992, Helm, London

Birds of Venezuela. Steven L. Hilty. 2003, Christopher Helm, London

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All photographs (unless otherwise stated) are the property of Brian Ramsey. No portion of the material on this site, including the photographs, may be reproduced without the express written consent of Outdoor Business Group Limited and Brian Ramsey. The permission of the other owners of the photographs must also be obtained for use.   

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Last modified: February 16, 2008