Dive Into Fascinating Facts About Anhinga Birds

Updated: Dec. 20, 2021

The anhinga is an amazing bird, from adaptability to the way it swims. Here's what you might not know about these water birds.

Male Anhinga perched in a mangrove tree at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge near Naples, FloridaDiana Robinson Photography/Getty Images
Anhinga perched in a mangrove tree at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge near Naples, Florida. 

Anhinga Birds Have Many Nicknames

Snake bird, American darter and black darter are a few of the anhinga bird’s most common monikers. Although, that’s not as crazy as the yellow-rumped warbler, also known as a butterbutt, or the American woodcock, which is called a timberdoodle.

Discover how birds get their names.

Anhingas Are Water Birds, But Not That Buoyant

anhingaCourtesy Jill Rodrigeuz
Anhinga hunting for fish

Unlike other common swimming birds, like grebes or puffins, anhingas are less buoyant. This makes the birds more efficient divers when they case after prey like fish, insect, crawfish and other aquatic goodies. When an anhinga swims at the surface, most of its body is usually underwater with only its head sticking out.

Check out 10 egrets and herons found in North America.

They Raise Young Once a Year

After the anhinga’s courtship period, mating pairs have only one brood per season. They lay two to five pale bluish-green eggs which they raise in a platform-style nest made of large sticks and lined with softer greenery.

Learn abut great egrets nests, courtship and baby egrets.

These Birds Are Bigger Than They Look

An anhinga preens itself.Justinreznick/Getty Images
An anhinga preens itself.

From beak to tail tip, these birds can reach about 3 feet long, thanks in part to their lanky, S-shaped necks. Their wingspan reaches about 3 1/2 feet, and they weigh-in at a little under 3 pounds.

Discover 7 fascinating facts about great blue herons.

Anhingas Thrive in Many Habitats

You can find these birds in lots of different habitats. They’re most common in swamps and marshes in coastal areas. They’re also found in two types of water: fresh and salt. The birds prefer fresh water but venture to briny coasts during droughts.

Quiz: How many shorebirds can you identify?

These Water Birds Aren’t Waterproof

Birding Hotspots for SnowbirdsRob Ripma
Anhingas can be found throughout Everglades National Park.

Anhingas spend a lot of time in and under the water, but have almost no waterproofing on their feathers. That’s why they’re often seen perched with their wings out, drying themselves in the sun.

Learn about beach birds and beach birding locations.

Anhinga Birds Have Webbed Toes

anhingaCourtesy Diana Pickel

Look for four webbed toes on each foot. They help them swim and catch fish as well as other prey in the water.

They Have a Small Range

In winter, you’re most likely to see them in seven coastal states across the Southeast, from South Carolina to Texas. The double-crested cormorant, a similar looking bird, has a larger range and can be seen in most of the United States during the breeding season or migration.

Cbeck out the top Gulf Coast birding hotspots for spring migration.