African Darter (Anhinga rufa)

It is a long, slender waterbird that swims in water bodies with its body submerged, and only its S-shaped neck can be seen on the surface. This cormorant-like species frequents freshwater wetlands, ranging from tranquil to fast-moving waters. Adult birds are mostly black, accentuated by whitish streaks and flecks. During the breeding season, males sport a coppery neck and a white band that stretches from their eyes to the head’s sides. Females and juveniles are paler, appearing buffy-brown.

Read further to know more about the African Darter.

What is an African Darter?

African Darter (Anhinga rufa) is a waterbird belonging to the family Anhingidae, occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and Iraq. It gots its name “darter,” from its habit of catching prey, impaling their victims, using their slender, pointed beaks, seemingly like a dart. They are also called snakebirds due to their S-shaped necks, which protrude on the water surface as they swim, while their bodies are submerged. Moreover, they use their necks for bonding displays with their pairs, twisting, contorting, or turning in various ways.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Suliformes

Family: Anhingidae

Genus: Anhinga

Species: A. rufa

African Darter Physical Description

African Darter is a relatively large bird, growing from 31.8 to 38.1 inches or 81 to 97 centimeters, weighing about 1050 to 1350 kilograms, with a wingspan of 45.2 to 50.3 inches or 115 to 128 centimeters.

Adult males have a shiny black plumage, accentuated by white to silverish flecks and streaks on the wings and mantle, more conspicuous on its long scapular feathers. The long, slender S-shaped neck is back on the back, while the rest is chestnut. A white band occurs from the eyes to the head’s sides. The throat and chin are whitish.

Meanwhile, the tail is long and black. Eyes appear to be golden. Legs and webbed feet have a brown tone. The species have a slender, pointed horn-brown bill, which separates it from the cormorants. Males have larger beaks than females. Females and juveniles are duller than males, sporting a buffy-brown plumage and less-noticeable bands on the head’s sides.

Where can they be spotted?

African Darters occur in sub-Saharan Africa and Iraq. It prefers tranquil or slow-moving freshwater or brackish waters, brimmed with vegetation, dead trees, rocks, and banks. They are rarely found on fast-moving waters, such as lagoons and estuaries. The species may perform necessary movements within its range, following the rainfall.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the African Darter

African Darters feed primarily on fish but may consume reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, and invertebrates. They utilize their webbed feet to effectively dive underwater then stab their prey using their slender, pointed bill. Such hunting techniques earned them the name “darters,” which impales their victims like a dart.

While they may be slower than the cormorants, their edge is their stealth movement, gliding effortlessly and hardly producing in the water. Once they catch fish, they bring it onto the surface, tossing the food item in the air, then catching and swallowing it headfirst. After fishing, they dry their plumage by stretching its wings.

Other food items these birds may consume inc

African Darters are colonial nesters. They nest and roost with other water birds such as the Egrets, Spoonbills, Herons, and Cormorants. When it comes to pairing, these birds are monogamous, with the breeding season happening any time of the year, but usually associated with the rainfalls.

The nest is placed in reeds, bushes, or trees over water. The male collects the materials, such as twigs, stickers, and reeds, with the interior lined with finer plant matter. The female constructs the nest, with the material brought by the male.

The female African Darter usually lays a clutch of 3 to 5 eggs, which both parents will incubate for about 25 to 30 days. The eggs are kept on top of their webbed feet. Both sexes feed and brood the chicks, which will fledge at about five weeks but will still rely on their parents for food for another two weeks. Juveniles take their first flight at seven weeks old and attain sexual maturity after two years.

Some threats to African Darters include pollution, habitat loss, and egg collection by humans. They also have many predators, such as ravens, crows, tawny eagles, harrier-hawk, raptors, and even crocodiles. Nevertheless, their number appears to be stable, and they are currently listed as Least Concern (LC) under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.



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