Anhinga, the Snake Bird

January 28, 2024 Birds, My travel Journal

Anhingas are also called “devil birds” or “snake birds” because only their long neck appears above the water when swimming. To hunt, they use their beak like a sword with which they stab their prey, which then, in a difficult maneuver, they swallow headfirst, thus avoiding injury with the spines and fins. Their narrow esophagus leaves no room for the fish to move, even when they choose such large fish that they swallow whole.

A Strange Call

It is an easily spotted bird if you are in the correct location. Found throughout the American continent, those nesting either far south or far north migrate to the tropics during winter. The distinctive sound they emit is often the first clue to their presence. Though challenging to describe, it evokes a metallic and repetitive screech akin to a machine’s.

A Diving Bird

Their body is more attuned to diving than flying, and their diet primarily consists of fish. Unlike most birds with hollow bones and waterproof feathers, Anhingas possess solid, heavy bones, and their feathers lack a fatty covering. Their adept underwater maneuvering poses challenges when emerging, appearing to walk on the water’s surface as their feathers drain before taking flight. Once out, they perch in the sun, wings spread wide to dry their plumage.

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