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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Anhinga -- Anhinga anhinga

RANGE: Breeds from central and eastern Texas east to coastal North Carolina and south to southern Brazil and Ecuador. Winters in southeastern United States from central South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and the Gulf Coast southward. Occasionally disperses north of breeding range.

STATUS: Common throughout range.

HABITAT: Inhabits quiet or slow-moving, often rather murky waters. Usually found in wooded freshwater swamps, streams, or tree-fringed lakes with water lilies, lotus, and other aquatic vegetation. Found in cypress swamps, freshwater sloughs of sawgrass and reeds with scattered willow clumps, or mangrove-bordered salt and brackish bays, lagoons, and tidal streams. Primarily a freshwater bird, but will range to marine coasts. Often perches with wings partly extended to dry.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Quiet, sheltered waters with some trees for perching.

NEST: Nests in small groups with herons and egrets. May appropriate nests of common and snowy egrets or little blue herons, or construct its own. Nests are usually 3 to 10 feet above water.

FOOD: Catches food by diving under water from the surface, while flying over water, or from a perch. Eats primarily fish, but also takes aquatic insects, crayfish, shrimp, leeches, tadpoles, frog eggs, water snakes, young alligators, and small terrapins.

REFERENCES: Oberholser 1974a, Palmer 1962, Pough 1951, Sykes in Farrand 1983a, Terres 1980.

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