Photo: Bill Hertha/Flickr Creative Commons

Anhinga

Anhinga anhinga

A long-necked, long-tailed swimmer of southeastern swamps. Often seen perched on a snag above the water, with its wings half-spread to dry. Can vary its buoyancy in water, sometimes swimming with only head and neck above water (earning it the nickname of "Snakebird"). Often solitary when feeding, it roosts in groups and nests in colonies. Looks rather like a cormorant when perched, but not in flight, when the long tail may be spread wide as the Anhinga soars high on outstretched wings. Anhingas are silent at most times, but around nesting colonies they make various croaking and clicking sounds.
Family Anhingas
Habitat Cypress swamps, rivers, wooded ponds. Mostly on quiet and sheltered waters, such as freshwater marshes, slow-moving rivers through cypress swamps, inlets and lagoons lined with mangroves, lakes with standing dead trees.
A long-necked, long-tailed swimmer of southeastern swamps. Often seen perched on a snag above the water, with its wings half-spread to dry. Can vary its buoyancy in water, sometimes swimming with only head and neck above water (earning it the nickname of "Snakebird"). Often solitary when feeding, it roosts in groups and nests in colonies. Looks rather like a cormorant when perched, but not in flight, when the long tail may be spread wide as the Anhinga soars high on outstretched wings. Anhingas are silent at most times, but around nesting colonies they make various croaking and clicking sounds.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • adult female
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • immature
Feeding Behavior

Hunts for fish while swimming underwater or at surface. Not usually a fast swimmer, mostly waits for fish to come near, then impales them with lightning-fast thrust of long, pointed bill. Structure of neck is specially adapted for this kind of rapid thrust. Fish often tossed in air, then swallowed headfirst.


Eggs

4, sometimes 2-5. Whitish to pale blue, becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by both sexes, 25-29 days. Young: both parents feed young. After age of about 2 weeks, if young are disturbed, they will jump out of nest into water; at least sometimes, they are able to climb back up to nest. Young climb in nest tree using feet and bill. Age at first flight unknown.


Young

both parents feed young. After age of about 2 weeks, if young are disturbed, they will jump out of nest into water; at least sometimes, they are able to climb back up to nest. Young climb in nest tree using feet and bill. Age at first flight unknown.

Diet

Mostly fish. Feeds primarily on "rough" fish of little value to humans, including catfish, mullet, pickerel, sucker, gizzard shad. Also aquatic insects, crayfish, shrimp, sometimes snakes, baby alligators, small turtles.


Nesting

Sometimes nests in isolated pairs, usually in groups, in mixed colonies with herons, ibises, cormorants. Male chooses site in colony and displays there to attract mate. Displays include waving wings, raising tail up over back, pointing bill skyward and then bowing deeply. Nest: built mostly by female, with material supplied by male. A platform of sticks, often lined with green leaves. Sometimes takes over an occupied nest of heron or egret.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Withdraws from northern breeding areas in winter. Many go to Mexico, migrating around Gulf of Mexico, with migrant flocks seen along Texas coast in spring and fall. Some remain all winter in south, especially peninsular Florida. Lone strays occasionally wander far to north during warmer months.

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Migration

Withdraws from northern breeding areas in winter. Many go to Mexico, migrating around Gulf of Mexico, with migrant flocks seen along Texas coast in spring and fall. Some remain all winter in south, especially peninsular Florida. Lone strays occasionally wander far to north during warmer months.

Songs and Calls
Low grunts like those of cormorants.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Anhingas Upright-perching Water Birds

Anhinga

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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