Anhingidae – Darters

African Darter Anhinga rufa ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The darters, or snakebird,s are mainly tropical waterbirds in the family Anhingidae. There are four living species (or just two according to some authorities or as many as five according to others who split off the Madagascan form vulsini), three of which are very common and widespread while the fourth is rarer and classified as near-threatened by the IUCN.

The term ‘snakebird’ is usually used without any additions to signify whichever of the completely allopatric species occurs in any one region. It refers to their long thin neck, which has a snake-like appearance when they swim with their bodies submerged, or when mated pairs twist it during their bonding displays.

‘Darter’ is used with a geographical term when referring to particular species. It alludes to their manner of procuring food, as they impale fishes with their thin, pointed beak.

The American Darter A. anhinga is more commonly known as the Anhinga.

‘Anhinga’ is derived from the Tupi ajiŋa (also transcribed ayinga or ayinga), which in local mythology refers to a malevolent demonic forest spirit; it is often translated as ‘devil bird’. The name changed to anhinga or anhanga as it was transferred to the Tupi–Portuguese Língua Geral. However, in its first documented use as an English term in 1818, it referred to an Old World darter. Ever since, it has also been used for the modern genus Anhinga as a whole.

Anhingas nest colonially in tree limbs that hang over water. As many as 400 Anhinga nests may occur in a single colony, though usually there are only a few dozen. Anhingas sometimes share their nesting colonies with wading birds such as herons, ibises, and spoonbills.

According to the IOC there are just four species in this familly:

Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster
African Darter Anhinga rufa
Australian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae
Anhinga (American Darter) Anhinga anhinga

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 4

Photographers & Artists
  • Australian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae

    Whole Bunch of great images…

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