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Species Description

Anhinga

Anhinga anhinga


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Anhingidae

Description

Overall color of body, tail, and wings, black with green iridescence; wings have white streaks and spotting. Male's neck and head, black; female's neck and head buff brown. 9 cm (35 in) in length; 114 cm (45 in) wing-span. This species swims with the body totally submerged, and just the neck and head above water. This swimming style has earned the Anhinga a common name of Snakebird, because its head and neck appear snake-like above the surface of the water.

Life Cycle

In the Southeast, the nesting season begins in December and continues through August, peaking from mid-March to mid-May. This species commonly nests in colonies with herons and egrets. The nest site, usually in a tree 1-6 m (4-20 feet) above the water or ground, is chosen by the male. The male brings sticks, twigs, and dead leaves to the nest site, and the female builds the nest. The female lays 2-5 (usually 4) eggs, which both adults incubate for 26-29 days. the young are altricial and are brooded by the male and female for 12 days. After 12 days, the young start climbing around the nest, but continue to be cared for by the adults until they fledge.

Natural History

The Anhinga uses open or partly open bodies of water that have nearby nesting and roosting vegetation, especially willows. It frequents fresh or brackish water, where it dives and spears fish with its pointed bill. Other foods taken include aquatic invertebrates, amphibians, and small vertebrates.

Range

Anhinga Region Map Within the United States, the Anhinga occurs all year in the coastal areas from southern Texas on the Gulf of Mexico east and north to southern Virginia. Within Georgia, populations are low during the breeding season in the southeastern half of the state and increase in number as one moves farther south and east toward the coast. The ranges of this species shows its preference for coastal areas.

Conservation Status

This species is listed as Endangered in Kentucky and "Of Special Concern" in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Similar Species

The cormorants are the species most similar to the Anhinga. Cormorants can be differentiated from the Anhinga by their down-curved bill tip, their facial coloration (usually with yellow near the bill), and their lack of white spotting on the wings.