Saturday, May 9, 2015

Blow Dry and Fluff

Here's a female Anhinga drying off in the breeze after diving for fish at Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina. Unlike the other fishing birds I saw, this breed swam under water to spear fish with that really sharp beak. To stay submerged, her feathers became completely soaked making her negatively buoyant. Then she would spend considerable time air-drying her plumage only to jump back in and go fishing again!

I watched her as she dove repeatedly for minnows along the edge of a fresh water marsh. She stayed down for 20-30 seconds at a time, moving several meters while submerged. I followed her trail of bubbles to anticipate where she might come up for air. When she did come up, only her neck and head came out of the water giving her a snake-like appearance. "Anhinga" is a Brazilian word that translates to "Snake Bird," among other things.

Here she is looking snakey.

Unlike the beaks on the much larger Herons and Egrets (see previous posts), Anhinga's are finer and sharper, indicative of the smaller fish they spear underwater. They are so fine at the tip, they are translucent. If a an Anhinga were to open it's mouth, the upper and lower halves of the beak would be almost needle-like at the tip. Apparently, they do spear smaller fish with their beaks slightly open and larger fish with them closed.

Tom Bradley  ©  2015

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