The anhinga is one of the most strange, beautiful and ancient birds of The Gulf Coast region of the Southeastern United States. When North America was split in half roughly 100 to 40 million years ago by a great inland sea called the Western Interior Seaway ( <— interesting maps and stuff – check out the link!) it was home to several species of now extinct anhingas, some of them so enormous that they are presumed to have been flightless! The species we have here in North America (Anhinga anhinga) is generally just called the anhinga, although in some places it is referred to as the American darter, water turkey, snakebird and even the ominous-sounding devil bird.
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Anhinga Drying its Wings
Because anhingas don’t have the oil glands found in other aquatic birds like ducks, gulls, swans, etc, when they come out of the water, they will need to dry their wings in order to fly. The advantage of not having this seemingly important oil so essential to buoyancy is that when underwater, the anhinga becomes an extremely fast and agile swimmer and a very efficient fish hunter. Throughout the Gulf Coast, this is a very typical sight: perched above water, wings spread drying in the wind and heat. This adult male was photographed in the Six-mile Cypress Slough in Fort Myers, Florida.
Also known as the snakebird, the anhinga is a common and very effective fish-hunter found along the coasts and interior of Florida and as far south as the Southern Amazon in Brazil. This male was spotted perched in a bald cypress tree in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Southwest Florida.
Rocks, cypress stumps and other watery perches are the perfect place for anhingas to keep an eye out for fish, and to stay relatively safe from hungry alligators, crocodiles, wildcats and larger birds of prey. This adult female was photographed from the shore of a lake in Fort Myers, Florida.
This female was perched at the base of an old bald cypress in the heart of the Sweetwater Strand of the Florida Everglades.
An adult male anhinga in full breeding plumage drying his wings in the Florida Everglades near Homestead.
Related to pelicans and cormorants, this male anhinga is in full breeding plumage in a freshwater lake in Fort Myers, Florida. Common along the wetlands of the Gulf Coast on the United States, this fish-specialist is widely scattered across Central America and can be found throughout the whole of the Amazon River Basin in South America.
Because it lacks the oils for buoyancy in its feathers like other birds, and it has a heavier skeleton than other diving birds, the swimming anhinga is completely submerged except for its head and long flexible neck, earning it the common nickname, “snakebird.” This one was spotted in a bream-rich lake in Fort Myers, Florida.
This one was photographed in central Fort Myers, Florida.
This female is in full breeding plumage on a warm spring day in Fort Myers, Florida. Note that beautiful blue eye-ring!
Headshot of the anhinga, also known as the snakebird. The anhinga is a common and very effective fish-hunter found along the coasts and interior of Florida. This male is was spotted perched in a cocoplum in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Southwest Florida.
This male anhinga is in full breeding plumage in the Florida Everglades.
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June 29, 2017
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