Family: (Anhingidae) Darters
Preferred Habitat: Wooded swamps.
Seasonal Occurrence: Very common April through October. Less common in other months. Breeds in our area.
Notes: A long and agile neck coupled with a piercing bill makes the Anhinga readily identified. They have a black body and breast; wings are black with a pattern of light streaks that run onto the upper back. Tail feathers are long and dark. Bill is dull yellow, spear-like, and very long. Feet are webbed and match bill in color. Neck and chest feathers of the female are tan and are noticeably lighter than those of the male. In flight, the Anhinga flaps and then soars, they can be seen gliding like a raptor, often up high, making use of thermals. In migration, large flocks can be observed moving in unison, soaring upward before spilling out and gliding to the next column of rising air.
The darters are unique in that they have corrugated flight feathers (seen in the first photo). The Anhinga has poorly developed oil glands and its feathers aren't as waterproof as other water birds. It will perch with its wings open to dry its feathers and warm its body. The fact that their feathers are less water resistant than other birds helps them to swim underwater and this behavior is the origin of their colloquial name, snake bird.