Darter or snake bird sunning

on 25th February 2009

Darter (Anhinga melanogaster) is also known as Snakebird. The bird floats low in the water such that only the head and neck are above the water level, looking like a snake moving in water.

The bird hunts small fishes underwater, sometimes diving into the water to do so. As birds are generally light and float in water, the darter, as well as cormorants, need to increase their weight to be able to easily move underwater. This is achieved not having their feathers waterproofed, so that they become heavy with water.

However, once they emerge from the water, they need to dry themselves. Thus these birds sun themselves with their wings stretched out. They also squeeze their feathers through their bill to remove excess water and repel water with oil from their enlarged preen gland at the base of the tail.

Images by Johnny Wee, taken in Perth, Australia. Top image shows a Darter hanging out its wings to dry, image below shows it with its bill manipulating its preen gland.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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