I’d Hate to Be an Anhinga

April 14, 2014 at 8:00 am (Bird photography, Birds- Florida, Great Florida Birding Trail, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , , )

Anhinga baby with large fish in its throat

Anhinga baby with large fish in its throat

I don’t know about you, but this photo creeps me out.  In addition to the anhinga chick being downright ugly in the face, the eye of the fish gaping from its throat is too unsettling.  I had just watched this baby wrestle the fish out of the throat of its parent.  And I mean WRESTLE.

Anhinga chick wrestling a fish from its parent's throat

Anhinga chick wrestling a fish from its parent’s throat

You see how far the chick has to dive into the father’s throat to retrieve its meal.  Eeewwwww.  And it really worked at it.  I thought maybe the parent’s throat would be torn, as frenetic as the fishing expedition was.  I know many birds, such as herons, feed their chicks like this.  But this was just plain hard to watch.




These images were taken at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Boynton Beach, Florida.  Several species of birds nest in small rookery islands there, and it is a favorite spot for photographers with long lenses and Fresnel flashes.

Chicks being fed

Chicks being fed

Parents can get assailed by two or three of these aggressive chicks when they return with a belly full of food.

Female anhinga with chicks

Female anhinga with chicks

The rookeries are conveniently located near the boardwalks

The rookeries are conveniently located near the boardwalks

One of the anhinga’s nicknames is Snake Bird, because while in the water often the only thing visible is its long, snake-like neck.  Watching the chicks fiercely retrieve food from the parents’ throats is like watching a nest of snakes writhing and thrashing.  Eeewwww.


Oddly, the chicks’ down is white, in stark contrast to the black feathers they will wear as adults.  Seen alone, they actually are a bit handsome.



I know I’ve taken an anthropomorphic view of these birds, since obviously they themselves are not bothered by their feeding tactics.  But still.  I wouldn’t want to be an anhinga.

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  1. Angie said,

    I’ve also heard them called wAter turkeys around here (S. Ga.). They are considered a nuisance by the old fisherman, but I enjoy watching them “sunbathe” on the cypress logs and try to guess where they will pop up when they submerge underwater.

  2. Pam Leonard said,

    Interesting topic. Can you imagine having to work so hard to be “fed”?

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