Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - May 11, 2005)
The ancient anhinga
This weeks column is purely informative
addressing one of the many questions were asked concerning anhingas. One of
the most common mistakes casual birdwatchers in Florida make is confusing anhingas
|Photo by Rick Tremmel
|The ancient anhinga takes time
to dry its wings in the warmth of a spring day.
Often heard is, Oh yeah, anhingas, theyre everywhere. Ive seen
em on the bridges when I drive to work.
Most likely the bird theyre observing is but the double-crested cormorant,
not the anhinga. These two species of birds are often mistaken for one another.
Similar species, anhingas and cormorants are prehistoric. These adaptable birds
choose a variety of habitats from varying ecosystems always with water nearby.
Their diets include a wide variety of fish, snakes, immature alligators, frogs,
crayfish, salamanders, eels, mollusks, crabs, shrimp and plant material. The
anhingas and cormorant's feathers lack oil for waterproofing, which enables
them to swim underwater, propelled by their webbed feet but as a result these birds
can often be seen preening their feathers and spreading their soaked wings to air
dry while sunning on rocks and overhanging tree branches.
In Florida you may often observe anhingas near willow outcroppings where they
build platform nests in trees or reuse a heron or egret nest. Although anhingas
usually nest in groups within mixed colonies, they also may be found nesting as
isolated pairs. The nest is built mostly by the female with nesting material, such
as sticks, Spanish moss and other plant material being brought to the female by the
male. When the anhinga is in breading plumage you may be able to notice a blue
eye-ring. The pale blues to white eggs (usually two to five) are incubated by both
parents within 25 to 29 days.
Anhingas are graceful flyers and can be seen soaring hawk-like overhead. They swim
with just head and neck above surface giving them the name of
snake-bird. The anhinga has a slender, pointed, yellow bill, long
snake-like neck and long tail that is edged in off-white. Unlike the all black
cormorant the feathers on the male anhingas back are like slivers of
silvery-white cascading from the inner wings.
Its length: 28 inches; Wingspan: 47 inches.
The females neck feathers and breast are soft, buffy brown where she is
often seen drying her wings while perched on a branch near water.
While journeying through Floridas backwaters, cypress swamps, marshes,
mangroves, rivers and wooded ponds keep an eye out for the ancient anhinga
always at home back to nature.
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.