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DeLand, FL 32720
Nature Scenes: Anhingas are sometimes called snakebirds
By Lynn Bowen
posted Apr 14, 2014 - 4:49:17pm
Often looking like posed statues, anhingas perch on branches or near water waiting for the breeze and sun to dry their water-soaked bodies after swimming and diving. These graceful water birds are among the few species in the world that do not have any oil in their feathers and therefore are barely buoyant. This is the reason only the neck and head are visible, creating an odd look, and it is why they are sometimes called snakebirds while swimming.
The lack of oil is to their advantage, however, since this enables them to dive quickly and deep to catch their prey. When diving, the wings are “glued” to their bodies. Like an arrow, the bird is propelled into the watery depths. They use only their feet for propulsion when diving.
Anhingas live all over the world in tropical and subtropical climates. They live in warm shallow waters like swamps, marshes and wooded ponds. Now we know why they love Florida!
Male anhingas are basically black with silver patches in their wings and a few white tail feathers. The females are dark brown, with a tan head, neck and upper chest. However, until the age of 3, the females look the same as the males.
These water birds are 35 inches tall, have a 45-inch wingspan, and weigh about 3 pounds.
The anhinga’s head is small, and its neck is long. The long, fan-shaped tail can be spread out or closed. The long, slender, yellow bill is like a spear to catch the anhingas’ prey of fish and amphibians. They also eat aquatic insects, frog eggs, and water snakes.
Anhingas have short yellow legs, but the toes of their stout webbed feet have sharp claws, which enable the birds to climb with ease on logs and other perching sites. Anhingas can live to be 12 years old.
The word “anhinga” comes from the Brazilian Tupi language, and means “devil bird.” Oh my, they don’t look devilish in my opinion! They even look like a cross when in flight, and they are equally at home in the water and in the air. Anhingas are delightful to watch at any time!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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