African darter

African darter
Anhinga rufa

Photo by Trevor Hardaker (Trevor and Margaret Hardaker)

Common name:
African darter (en); mergulhão-serpente-africano (pt); anhinga d’Afrique (fr); aninga africana (es); Afrikanische schlangenhalsvogel (de)

Order Pelecaniformes
Family Anhingidae

This species is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, from southern Mauritania to Sudan and south to South Africa. It is also found in Madagascar and there are also isolated population in the Middle East, at Lake Amik in south-central Turkey, in Hula valley lake and marshes in northern Israel and in the marshes of the lower Euphrates and Tigris rivers in southern Iraq.

These birds are 80-100 m long and have a wingspan of around 120 cm. They weigh 1-1,4 kg.

Habitat:The African anhinga is found in still, shallow, inland freshwater and alkaline lakes and slow-flowing rivers fringed with reeds and trees. They also occur in swamps, reservoirs, forested streams, and occasionally in mangrove swamps, estuaries, shallow tidal inlets and coastal lagoons.

They mainly feed on freshwater fishes, mainly Cichlidae and Cyprinidae, but will also take amphibians, water snakes, terrapins, aquatic insects, crustaceans and molluscs.

African darters are monogamous and often colonial. They breed all year round. The
nest is built by both sexes, consisting of an untidy platform of sticks or dead reeds, with a shallow cup in the centre which is lined with grass. It is typically placed in a fork in a tree over water, or alternatively in a reed bed. There the female lays 2-7 eggs which are incubated by both sexes around 22 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 5-7 weeks after hatching.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and the overall trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable. Habitat destruction, environmental pollution and persecution because of its wrongly perceived impact on trout and other recreational fish species may have a negative impact on the African darter, but overall the species is not considered threatened.

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