I prefer to say ‘Anhinga’

The Anhinga is a really cool bird for many reasons.  For one thing, his red eyes and turquoise ‘eye shadow’ really stand out during breeding season.

IMG_0076For another, the stately Anhinga is often seen standing in a tree or other convenient ‘drying rack’ with its wings outstretched, drying off, a really unusual-looking behavior. They engage in this behavior because their feathers are less water-resistant than bird feathers typically are. (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/birds/waterbirds/anhinga/)IMG_0443It is a common misconception that the Anhinga’s feathers lack waterproofing oils, but it is really a function of the ‘micro-structure’ of their feathers that helps them submerge, and then protects their body temperature as they engage in this ‘drying out’ and warming up behavior when out of the water.  See more about this in The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior, 2013. p. 165-66.

For additional information about their swimming, feeding, and other behavior, click here or here.IMG_0039

IMG_0117Another reason Anhingas are so popular is that they have such amazingly cute chicks!

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IMG_0042The babies stretch out their impossibly long, wobbly necks and thrust their heads right down the throat of the parent bird to get their food, quite a sight to behold if you’ve never seen it happen!

IMG_0090

IMG_0088Lots of people refer to the Anhinga as the Snake Bird, or Water Turkey, because he actually submerges and swims around under the water to catch his prey.

IMG_0093His narrow head could easily be mistaken for a snake when he emerges from the water with a fish or other prey that he’s just speared for dinner . . .

IMG_9872. . . . like the hapless fellow above!

Personally, I much prefer the name Anhinga, a name which is said to derive from a word in the Tupi language of Brazil.

IMG_0063The female Anhinga is very pretty, and distinguishable from her male counterpart by her tan cowl-neck sweater,

IMG_3158which she occasionally shows off to her best advantage.IMG_0102Both female and male Anhingas are pretty clumsy, though, when taking off and landing, as their clunky webbed feet are not ideally designed for precise, graceful movements on narrow branches.IMG_2219Sometimes people who are unfamiliar with this bird are understandably confused when they ask what its name is and someone says: “It’s an Anhinga.”  They often try to repeat the name, leaving out the first ‘an’ or adding an extra one.IMG_2214This bird can often appear quite elegant, but sometimes, the Anhinga just likes to show off his acrobatic skills by doing semi-flips on a tall tree branch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 thoughts on “I prefer to say ‘Anhinga’

    • Thanks Pat! I usually don’t pay that much attention to photographing anhingas. But now that the babies are here, I added a few pictures from earlier this year to these new shots. They really are very special!

  1. Great pics! It is very similar to our Australian variety which we call the Darter. I had some beautiful movie footage of the father feeding its babies, (as like your photos) in a previous blog on spring babies.

    • I’ve seen them referred to as Darters, including in Sibley’s book. I must look up your video of the feeding! In fact, you remind me how valuable little video scenes can be. I should take advantage of that feature on my camera more often – almost never use it!

  2. You captured some really wonderful action shots of the anhinga here, BJ. I especially like your close-ups of the chicks, but the water shots, the acrobats, the glowing orange sunlight in the mouth — wow. Good info too. Great post!

    • Your comments mean a lot to me, Jet – thank you! It’s funny, I was missing a couple of shots of the Anghingas swimming underwater, so I went out the other day and was able to shoot a few more to include in the post. They were so cooperative!

  3. A most informative post filled with fantastic photographs! Whenever I visit Florida, I particularly enjoy observing Anhingas. Last year, I visited a rookery where I was able to view several anhinga babies. What a joy that was! Wonderful post!

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