Defining Characteristics and Behavior:
The Anhinga is a large, dark waterbird with a long, pointed bill and a distinctive, snake-like neck. Its feathers are predominantly black with white markings on its wings, back, and tail. Anhingas are excellent swimmers and divers, but their feathers are not waterproof, which makes it necessary for them to perch in the sun to dry off. When hunting, they swim slowly with their necks submerged, looking for fish, which they spear with their sharp bill. They are also known for their unique courtship display, which involves spreading their wings wide and shaking their head back and forth.
Geographic Range and Habitat Preferences:
- The Anhinga is found in the southeastern United States, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.
- They inhabit a variety of freshwater and brackish habitats, including rivers, lakes, swamps, and mangroves.
- Anhingas prefer quiet, still waters with plenty of vegetation for cover and perching.
- Anhingas typically mate for life and breed during the dry season.
- Females lay 2-6 eggs in a stick nest built by the male, which he constructs by breaking off branches and weaving them together.
- Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks, which fledge at around 6-8 weeks of age.
- Anhingas can live up to 15 years in the wild.
- Anhingas are also known as "snakebirds" due to their long, slender necks and their habit of swimming with only their head and neck above the water.
- Unlike most other waterbirds, Anhingas lack oil glands and must spread their wings to dry off after swimming, leading to the nickname "water turkey".
- Anhingas have been observed using tools in the wild, using twigs to lure fish closer to their position before striking with their bill.