A few weeks back, I shared photos of nesting Great Egrets from a bird rookery near my house. I’ve been monitoring this rookery all through bird nesting season, and enjoying the many species courting, nesting, and fledging there, including Wood Storks, Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, and Anhingas.
Anhingas are found in the southeastern U.S., mainly in freshwater wetlands. Their range extends down through Central America and through much of South America as well. The Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) looks a lot like its more widespread cormorant cousins, but is easily identifiable by the slim pointed bill and widespread tail when in flight. When it swims, it sits even lower in the water than cormorants, with just the neck sticking up, giving it the common name “snakebird”. Both anhingas and cormorants are known for their habit of sitting in the sun with their wings spread.
During mating season, the male anhinga develops extra crest feathers on the head, and the flesh around the eyes may turn a bright emerald green. Males begin courtship with lots of high flying, soaring through the area, and then marking out a possible nest spot. Then he turns on the fancy moves, flapping his wings alternately and bending his head low, extending the tail to the sky. Once the female accepts, the male brings her nesting material and she builds a platform, usually in a bush or tree low over the water. They incubate the eggs together for nearly a month.
Anhingas rarely nest on their own; they are usually part of a colony made up of a variety of waterbirds during bird nesting season. Though highly territorial when staking out nest locations, they seem comfortable with with many other birds in close proximity as long as they don’t directly interfere with the nest. This type of cooperative bird behavior is more common that you might think – learn more here.