Anhinga

Anhinga anhinga
Range Map

The Anhinga ranges widely in South America, especially in the Amazon Basin, but they also live north throughout Central America, Mexico and the coastal zone in the Southeastern USA. They have relatives (members of the Anhinga genus) across the globe in Africa, India, and Australia. In some regions they are called darters. Because of the serpentine curve of their necks, and their manner of swimming with only the head above water, some people call them snakebirds.

Anhingas don’t work oils into their feathers to prevent them from getting soaked during foraging expeditions. Instead, they perch in a dry place, letting the air and sun dry them out. With feathers dried out, they are excellent flyers. With wet feathers, they cannot get airborne, and can only run on the water’s surface or swim.

My experience meeting Anhingas so far has come in Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley. A pair were working the waters of the resaca, or oxbow lake near my camp in Brownsville, and I captured a few images.

Today’s science recognises two subspecies of Anhinga:

  • A. a. anhinga breeds in South America.
  • A. a. leucogaster breeds in southeastern USA, Mexico, Central America and Cuba.

Within the USA, these birds may wander far from any predicted range. We’ve seen them as far north as Nebraska and Ontario (Canada), as far east as New York, and west to Arizona.

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