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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Anhinga


Anhinga, originally uploaded by Elizabeth Smith.

A lot of viewers may not be familiar with the Anhinga, but it’s a common bird along the waterways of Florida.

Sometimes called the Snake Bird or Water Turkey, it can be seen diving, swimming or drying its feathers along our canals, bays, and lakes. Anhingas are called the Snake Bird because when they emerge from underwater and swim for shore, their long sinuous neck resembles a snake. They’re very distinctive in appearance; the males are black and white, while the females and juveniles are deep brown with a buff or light brown neck.

Often striking a pose on a perch near the water, they spread their wings wide to dry in the sun. Their wings in this position remind me of a black cape with epaulets and silvery white ribbons. Anhingas pose like this because they don’t secrete oil to waterproof their feathers (like ducks or geese do), and rely on air drying in order to fly. This lack of oil helps make them less buoyant, allowing them to dive more efficiently and stay underwater longer.

A member of the Darter family, you may have guessed that these birds are piscivores, or fish-eaters. For a quick overview of the Anhinga, visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology ; included are some short facts, a distribution map, and an audio record of their call. For a more in-depth read, visit the Wikipedia entry.

I found this Anhinga sitting on the bridge walkway over one of the lakes at Freedom Park, and took several reference photos for drawing later.  I've never had a chance to get this close to one of these beautiful birds before creating a flustered takeoff, and I'm happy I didn't cause this bird any apparent stress!

Clicking on the topmost image will take you to my Flickr photostream.

Parents and teachers, you can click HERE to download a free PDF coloring page of an Anhinga.