The Anhinga or snake bird

The Anhinga has an incredibly slender, S-shaped, long neck, a body length of about 35 inches, an impressive wingspan of roughly 45 inches across, and weighs in at a light 46 to 47 ounces. It is also known by several other names such as American Darter, Water Turkey, Darter, or Snakebird.

This is a swimming bird that appears like a snake preparing to strike when it is in the water. Only its long, dark-colored neck can be seen above the water as it swims. This is why it has also been dubbed the Snakebird. It is also called a Water Turkey because of its broad tail and similar swimming habits.

This bird prefers warmer climates and can be found in both South America and North America. They chooses to live in swampy areas, freshwater ponds, shallow coastal bays, marshes, lakes, and mangrove swamps, with thick vegetation and tall trees. They use the vegetation and trees to escape predators. The Anhinga is a fish eater, so it makes sense that this bird would live near the water. This species has a pointed beak resembling an arrow, which comes in handy for spearing fish. The thrust with which they spears their prey is so powerful at times that he has to swim to the shore and use a rock to pry the fish from his beak before he can eat.

One would assume that this bird species, being a swimming bird, would have feathers like a duck, containing oil to keep the feathers from getting wet and weighing down the bird. However, they are unique in that its feathers actually do get wet when they swim, sometimes causing it to become very heavy. Instead of being a hindrance, this is very helpful to this light bird as it is able to dive under the water more easily and can stay under for significant amounts of time, hunting prey. When it is necessary, they will perch, with wings outstretched, for as long as it takes for its wings and feathers to dry out. If 0ne of these birds are on the water's surface with waterlogged wings, it will "run" across the surface and flap its wings furiously until it is able to take flight.

The male Anhinga is a blackish-green all over, with black plumage that features silver patches on the wings. The female is colored less dramatically, with a brown head, neck and chest, and a black stomach. Both sexes have long, fan-shaped tail feathers. Their appearance is altered a bit during the breeding season. They develop a blue ring around their eyes.

An Anhinga's nest is built in a tree, created from sticks, and lined with leaves. The female lays anywhere from three to five eggs that are light blue or light green in color. Occasionally, the eggs will feature brown speckles.

The chicks hatch within about one month and are in the nest for three weeks or so. An interesting fact about Anhinga chicks: if they are in the nest and threatened, they have the ability to drop into the water below, swim away and then later climb out of the water and back into their nest. Chicks will fledge around six weeks and continue staying on with their parents for several more weeks before going out on their own.

The Anhinga is not considered a threatened species at this time and is protected in the United States under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

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