Anhinga - Anhinga anhinga
The anhinga is a large bird that is about three feet in length. It has a long S-shaped neck and a long pointed bill. It has large wings with silver-white feathers on the top side. The male has grayish-black feathers with a greenish shine to them. The female has a tan head, neck, and chest, and a black stomach. Both the male and the female have long, fan-shaped tail feathers. When the anhinga is in its breeding plumage it has a blue ring around its eyes.
The anhinga is found off the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Texas and in the Mississippi Valley north to Kentucky and Missouri. It is also found in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.
Using its sharp bill, the anhinga spears fish, flips them in the air, and swallows them head-first. Sometimes, the anhinga spears a fish so hard that it has to return to shore with the fish still stuck on its bill. The anhinga bangs the fish against a rock to get it off its bill.
The male anhinga courts the female by flying and gliding overhead. The male chooses a nesting site. Once a pair has formed, the male gathers sticks, leaves, and twigs for the nest. The female uses the materials the male gathers to build a platform nest in a tree. The nest is built 4-20 feet above the ground or water.
The female lays 3-5 light blue eggs and both parents incubate the eggs for about a month. The chicks are blind and helpless when they hatch. Both the male and female feed them regurgitated food. The chicks fledge when they are six weeks old, but they stay with their parents for a few more weeks. Male and female pairs may mate for more than one year and often use the same nesting site.
The anhinga is also known as the snakebird. When it swims, its body is submerged under the water. It stretches its head and neck flat out on the surface of the water. When its head and neck are stretched out, it looks like a snake is gliding through the water.
Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Miguel Angel Roda