photo by Phil Swanson

Anhinga anhinga
L 35″ (89 cm) W 45″ (114 cm).

Song or calls:
Distinct rapid clicking, like the sound of a sewing machine.

Description: Very long, thin neck, small snakelike head, and long fanlike tail. Glossy black-green above; silvery white spots and streaks on wings and upper back. Male has dark head, neck, and breast. During the breeding season acquires pale, wispy plumes on upper neck and bill and bare facial skin become brightly colored. Female has buffy head, neck, and breast. Immatures resemble female, but are browner overall.

Habitat: Found on lagoons, lakes, rivers, and swamps with quiet or slowly flowing clear, fresh water that also supports a healthy fish population.

Where in Nebraska: Rare casual spring and fall visitor in the central and eastern portions of the state.  Seen in Buffalo County in 1913; Hamilton County in 1955; Greely County in 1975; and Fontenelle.

Nebraska Seasons: Look for Anhingas in oxbow areas in the lower Missouri Valley in early May.

Field Notes: Sharply pointed bill is used to spear fish.

Fun Facts: Anhingas lack the oil glands needed to keep their feathers waterproof, enabling them to get wet and swim more efficiently under water. However, they must spread their wings in the sun in order to dry themselves.

Additional Information: Other names include “Snakebird” and “Water Turkey.”

Anhinga - photo by Phil Swanson Anhinga - photo by Phil Swanson
(click image for larger view)