Anhingidae – Darters

African Darter Anhinga rufa ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The darters, or snakebirds 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 (and fifth) 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.

Species List

According to the IOC there are just four species in this family, they are:

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

Species Links
  • African Darter Anhinga rufa

    BirdLife Species Account
    BirdLife species profile and status
  • African Darter Anhinga rufa

    Species Account
    The African darter (Anhinga rufa), sometimes called the snakebird, is a water bird of sub-Saharan Africa and Iraq.
  • African Darter Anhinga rufa

    HBW Species Account
    HBW species account
  • African Darter Anhinga rufa

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Anhinga (American Darter) Anhinga anhinga

    Species Account
    BirdLife species profile and status
  • Anhinga (American Darter) Anhinga anhinga

    HBW Species Account
    HBW species account
  • Anhinga (American Darter) Anhinga anhinga

    Species Account
    The anhinga (/ænˈhɪŋɡə/; Anhinga anhinga), sometimes called snakebird, darter, American darter, or water turkey, is a water bird of the warmer parts of the Americas. The word anhinga comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird. When swimming the origin of the name snakebird is apparent: only the colored neck appears above water so the bird looks like a snake ready to strike. They do not have external nares (nostrils) and breathe solely through their epiglottis.
  • Anhinga (American Darter) Anhinga anhinga

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Anhinga (American Darter) Anhinga anhinga

    Cornell Species Account
    A bird of southern swamps, the Anhinga is known as the Water-Turkey for its swimming habits and broad tail, and also as the Snake-Bird for its habit of swimming with just its long head and neck sticking out of the water.
  • Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae

    IUCN Species Status
    IUCN species status and profile
  • Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae

    Webpage
    HBW species account
  • Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae

    Species Account
    The Australasian darter or Australian darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae) is a species of bird in the darter family, Anhingidae. It is found in Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. It weighs around 2.6 kg and spans 86–94 cm (34–37 in) in length.
  • Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae

    IBC Species Account
    IBC species account
  • Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae

    BirdLife Species Account
    Species profile and status
  • Australian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae

    Species Account
    Full species account…
  • Madagascan African Darter Anhinga rufa vulsini

    Species Account
    Image & distribution
  • Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster

    BirdLife Species Account
    BirdLife species profile and status
  • Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster

    Species Account
    The Oriental darter or Indian darter (Anhinga melanogaster) is a water bird of tropical South Asia and Southeast Asia. It has a long and slender neck with a straight, pointed bill and, like the cormorant, it hunts for fish while its body submerged is in water. It spears a fish underwater, bringing it above the surface, tossing and juggling it before swallowing the fish head first. The body remains submerged as it swims, and the slender neck alone is visible above the water, which accounts for the colloquial name of snakebird. Like the cormorants, it has wettable feathers and it is often found perched on a rock or branch with its wings held open to dry.
  • Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster

    HBW Species Account
    HBW species account
  • Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster

    IBC Species Account
    IBC species account
  • Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster

    IUCN Species Status
    Distribution map
  • Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 4

Photographers & Artists
  • Australian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae

    Image
    Whole Bunch of great images…

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