Winging It

By staff June 1, 2004

Some birds fish and some fish fly, but some creatures, like Florida's anhinga, do a little of both. The anhinga is found in Southern lakes, rivers, and swamps. It's sometimes mistaken for Florida's other aquatic bird, the double crested cormorant, but can be recognized by its straight, dagger-like bill, which it uses to stab fish.

Its nickname, "snakebird," comes from its habit of swimming with only its head and neck above the water, like a snake. Because the anhinga lacks oil glands, its feathers can become waterlogged, and it has to dry off before it can fly. To accomplish this, it climbs from the water and perches with its wings open, its iridescent black plumage turned to the sun.

Though its takeoff can be a little awkward, once airborne the anhinga is a surprisingly good flyer, fond of soaring in wide lazy circles, equally at home on currents of air or water.

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