Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cormorants and Anhingas

Hard to believe that it is noon and only 42 degrees! Birdchick arrived here yesterday for the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival and noted in her blog that it was as cold here as it is in Minnesota! She's having a good time, though - she's amazed that the birds in Florida seem to be more patient with photographers than birds elsewhere. I told her that they have been trained to pose for tourists - this anhinga is just waiting for somebody to take its picture!

For the casual bird watchers (like myself), it is sometime difficult to distinguish between a double-crested cormorant and an anhinga. I talked with Jim Angy about it, and he graciously explained a few things. One of the first things I wanted to know why the cormorant is called double-crested. Jim suggested I ask Charlie Corbeil if I could use his straight-on shot, and sure enough - there are the two tufts! (Photo by Charlie Corbeil)
The cormorant and the anhinga are about the same size - approximately two feet long, with a wingspan of about four feet. The pelican, cormorant, and anhinga are related, and all have four webbed toes (instead of three like other waterbirds). The cormorant has dark brown or black feathers, a hooked bill, and an orange throat pouch. You can see the hooked bill in Jim's photo - that bill feature dictates how it obtains its food. It dives for fish from the water's surface, flips the fish in the air, and swallows it head-first.
The male anhinga is black with silver patches on its wings (see top photo). The female has a brown head and neck. This closeup of a male anhinga in nuptial plumage shows its sharp, pointed beak that allows it to spear fish.

You'll often see cormorants and anhingas perched with their wings outstretched, like the anginga in the first photo. This is because these birds do not have oil glands, so their feathers are not waterproof. Since they dive underwater for food, they can get waterlogged - hence the need to sun themselves to dry off.
(Photos by Jim Angy except as noted. Be sure to click to enlarge.)

1 comment:

Amanda said...

That straight on shot blows my mind, looks like an alien. Marge i recieved you donation and lovely postcards today thank you so much!!
I am keeping all the donations safely away until we get those release papers back. I do not know what is taking so long!!