Sunday, July 29, 2018

African Darter

There are four species of darter, also known as snake birds: (1) the American darter or anhinga (Anhinga anhinga); (2) the Oriental or Indian darter (Anhinga melanogaster); (3) the African darter (Anhinga rufa); and (4) Australasian or Australian darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae). 
This African darter stands in the top of a tree. 
A cormorant flies over illustrating its much smaller bill. 
I'm very familiar with the American darter which I've always called the anhinga which I've seen a lot of in Florida. The Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park is the best place to view wildlife in the Everglades and my first exposure to the Anhinga. 
Some of these are darters and some of them are cormorants. 

While we were on a motorboat in the Okavanga Delta of Botswana we saw a lot of them lining the shore or standing in trees. I thought the guide was calling them "dakar" as in the capital of Senegal. I kept saying, or at least thinking, they look like anhingas. It was only later as I looked at a book that it dawned on me the guide was saying "darter." I never thought of the American version as a darter, always as an anhinga. 
The main difference between the African and American darter is a white lateral neck stripe against a rufous background on the African darter which shows up quite clearly in the photos. 
Many of these birds are darters, but there is also a sacred ibis (white), white-faced whistling ducks  and cormorants. 
They are found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa wherever there are large bodies of water. 


  1. Their necks are very snake-like. Is that why they are called snake birds? That's hilarious about the guide saying "darter" and not "dakar," which is what I thought he was saying too.

    1. When they swim under water all that is seen above is the long neck and bill, thus snake-bird.