Anhinga – the Snake Bird is now nesting at CATIE

Four young Anhingas clamour for food from dad. Photo by John Beer

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga); Pato aguja; Schlangenhalsvogel; Anhinga d’Amérique

The Anhinga is a fairly common bird in Costa Rica and is certainly no stranger to the grounds of CATIE, the world-renowned Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre, located here in Turrialba. The species has surely nested here before, but right now is the time to get a really good view of its nest. It is located high up and is very visible on the heronry islet that is home to several nesting heron and egret species. The chicks are hardly chicks any more; they are close to reaching full size and are being fed assiduously by the adult birds.

And now here are the adults:

Female Anhinga can be recognised by the brown or pale neck and upper parts; photo by John Beer

Because of its long neck and its habit of swimming submerged with only head and neck above water it is often called the ‘snake bird‘. The Spanish name translates roughly to needle duck, though it is of course not a duck at all. The unique family has only 4 representative species world-wide, with members in both the Eastern and the Western hemisphere. To dry out after a plunge the Anhinga spreads its huge wings rather in the manner of a cormorant, to which it is superficially similar:

Mostly black Male Anhinga showing his two-tone wings; photo by John Beer

If you’re in the Turrialba area be sure to drop in at CATIE before the young birds fledge. At the same time you’ll be able to see literally hundreds of egrets and herons, many of which are also still feeding nestlings.

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