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Anhinga - BirdForum Opus

Anhinga redirects here. For the genus Anhinga, see Anhinga
Photo © by stejon
Florida, USA, February 2003
Anhinga anhinga


Photo © by zerb21
Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, Florida, USA, 5 January 2012

L. 35" (89 cm); Ws. 45" (114 cm)

  • Slender
  • Dark body
  • Long tail and neck


  • Jet black with green iridescence
  • Dramatic silver and white markings on upper back and forewings
  • Long, sharp yellow bill
  • Red eyes with blue skin


  • Dark brown overall
  • Lighter brown head, neck, and breast


Photo © by bobsofpa
Venice Rookery, Florida, USA, 2 May 2015

In the U.S., it is found along and well inland from the Gulf of Mexico to Florida and along the east coast north to at least Virginia. Northernmost birds are at least partially migratory, moving southwards in winter.

It is also found along a narrow strip on the southwest coast of Mexico, in Cuba (vagrant in the rest of the Caribbean), and in Central and South America from Guatemala, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago south to Argentina (but not Chile).


Photo © by bobsofpa
Venice Rookery, Florida, USA, 11 February 2010


Photo © by KC Foggin
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA, June 2022

Two subspecies are recognized[1]:

  • A. a. leucogaster:
  • A. a. anhinga:


Freshwater ponds, lakes, and marshes.



Dives frequently for fish, which it spears with its long sharp bill, then tosses them in the air until it can swallow them headfirst.

The colloquial name, Snakebird, can be quite descriptive when this bird is in the water - it swims with its body mostly submerged, and just the long sinuous neck above. On quick glance, it can thus appear to be a swimming snake. The other common posture is on a tree near or over water, where it spends hours with wings extended, drying in the sun; unlike ducks, it has no oil with which to waterproof its feathers, an adaptation to improve its diving ability.


Their diet consists mostly of fish, with the addition of frogs, newts, salamanders, crayfish and even snakes appearing on the menu.


Photo © by Zackiedawg
Delray Beach, Florida, USA, 26 April 2015

Monogamous. They often breed colonially and sometimes with Cormorants. Nests are almost always placed over water, 1-3 m above. These are stick structures, usually with green leaves and branches built in. They often lay between 2-5 eggs. Presumably incubation starts with the first egg (both parents participate) and it takes almost a month for the young to hatch. It takes a further 6 weeks before the first flight it attempted. However, after only two weeks a young which is disturbed will jump into the water and later climb back up to the nest.


Click on photo for larger image


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Orta, J., Garcia, E.F.J., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2019). Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/52665 on 19 August 2019).
  3. Frederick, P. C. and D. Siegel-Causey (2020). Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.anhing.01
  4. Arthur Grosset's Birds

Recommended Citation

External Links

  • Anhinga USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

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