Dean M. Chriss
Anhinga, Preening, South Florida

Anhinga, Preening, South Florida

(Click image to enlarge)

The anhinga is a water bird that lives in the warmer parts of North America and South America. The word "anhinga" comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird. Anhinga are often confused with cormorants since both birds are dark and share similar behaviors. The easiest way to differentiate these species is to look at their beaks. The beak of the anhinga is sharply pointed, while the beak of the cormorant is hooked.

Adult anhinga are about 35 inches (85 cm) long with a wingspan of 45 in (117 cm), and a weight of 3 pounds (1.35 kg). Anhinga eat fish and often swim with only their very long neck above water. When swimming in this way the bird resembles a snake ready to strike, thus the "snake bird" name.

The feathers of the Anhinga are not waterproofed by oils like those of ducks. Because of this they become waterlogged, causing the bird to become barely buoyant. This allows anhinga to dive easily and search for fish under the water and they can stay down for significant periods. Between hunting expeditions anhinga will dry their feathers by perching for long periods with their wings spread. They have great difficulty flying when their feathers are wet, though they commonly do so.