At a Glance

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.
Anhingas, Upright-perching Water Birds
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands
Florida, Mid Atlantic, Plains, Southeast, Texas
Flap/Glide, Soaring

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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.


34-36" (86-91 cm). Suggests a cormorant but has a long, narrow, dagger-pointed bill, long fan-shaped tail, white markings on upper side of wings. Female has buff head and neck, male is mostly black. In flight, notice the fan-shaped tail tip, long neck extended out in front.
About the size of a Heron
Black, Brown, Green, Tan, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Broad, Fingered, Long, Pointed
Tail Shape
Long, Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Low grunts like those of cormorants.
Call Pattern
Flat, Simple
Call Type
Chatter, Odd, Rattle


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.



4, sometimes 2-5. Whitish to pale blue, becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by both sexes, 25-29 days.


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.

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.


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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Anhinga. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Anhinga

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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