Anhingas are water birds that live near swamps, lagoons, marshes and other freshwater habitats in the southern United States, Mexico and Central America. Some also migrate to South America during winter. Their diet includes fish, insects and crustaceans. They have an average lifespan of 11 years in the wild.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Aves
Order - Suliformes
Family - Anhingidae
Genus - Anhinga
Species - A. anhinga
Common Names - Anhinga, Darter, Snakebird, Water Turkey, American Darter
Male anhingas have mostly greenish-black feathers and silver feathers on their wings and backs. Female anhingas have brown feathers with a lighter shade of brown on their necks and heads. Anhingas have small heads, long necks, broad wings, long bills and webbed feet that help them swim. Adults measure between 29.5 and 37.4 feet in length and weigh around 47 ounces.
Anhingas that live in North America breed seasonally, while those in hotter climates do not typically have a particular breeding season. Females lay an average of four eggs, which incubate in a nest made of sticks for up to 30 days. Males and females take turns keeping the eggs warm. Newly hatched chicks do not have any feathers at first, but they do grow down when they are a little older. Both parents feed the chicks and take care of them until they are fully independent, which is usually several weeks after they leave the nest.
Anhingas have feathers that are not waterproof, so they are not as buoyant in the water as other birds. They tend to swim low in search of food, then they perch in trees in order to let the sun warm them up. Anhingas communicate by making several types of vocalizations, including croaks and rattles. They are able to soar at high altitudes by holding their wings straight out.
Anhinga populations in the United States were once affected by the use of the pesticide DDT. After DDT was banned, their numbers increased again.
Anhingas are listed as “least concern” due to their stable populations and large range. They do face a few threats, mainly from entanglements with fishing lines and pesticide accumulation in polluted waters. As a bird species that migrates, anhingas are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.