May 2015 Bird Photo of the Month

Did she or didn’t she? © Andy Liu
Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)

Doesn’t she look like a character? Is she giving him a piece of her mind or drawing him in? Early in the breeding season, Anhingas begin a complex courtship by soaring on thermals, circling with vultures, hawks, and eagles 1000s of feet into the sky. Wings outstretched, pointed bill, thin tail, like a black flying stick. The male and female glide down to a perch and pluck twigs, signaling the beginning of nest building. The black S-shaped-necked male, with crest erect, bows low, undulating his wings flashing white pattern on black, then erects his tail, spread wide. His intense blue eye-ring during mating season and his repeated undulations display stimulates the buff-necked female to open her bill and rapidly vibrate her pink throat, sweeping her head and neck to and fro. After mutual bill rubbing, the male may insert his bill into the females’ throat to mock feed, sealing the deal.

Anhingas swim with only neck and head above water, appearing like a snake swimming in the water, a snake bird. The Brazilian Tupi Indian name for snake is anhangá, whence their name. A local name, Water Turkey, is from the erect broad tail in courtship. Without oil glands to waterproof their feathers, Anhingas can submerge easily to stalk fish underwater. They spear a fish’s side with their sharp bill. Surfacing, they flip the fish into the air just right so the fish will fall, head first, right down their throat. Young birds just 3 weeks old begin practicing, tossing sticks into the air. However, dry feathers are essential for flying, so Anhingas climb to a perch and stretch their wings to the sun to dry and warm themselves.

Andy Liu photographed her with a Nikon D90, f4, 1/1250 s, 400mm, ISO 400. She lured him in, didn’t she?

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society

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