Every so often I see a fish moving along several inches above the water.
A closer look reveals a beak speared through the fish and the long
slender neck of an Anhinga, or diving bird, supporting the fish in
mid-air. Dinner is served!
Usually the bird swims off to some unreachable (by me) location to enjoy
its meal. Once in a while though, I get to watch.
This female anhinga
speared her fish and brought it up to the shore in front of me to swallow. She
worked really hard to get it off of her beak, and the fish got sand and
leaves stuck to it in the process. Suddenly, she wiggled and moved
really fast and then the fish was face first in her mouth. Finally, with
a quick gulp, it was gone.
I see these birds eat little fish more often than I see them eat big
fish. They come to the surface and poke their head out of the water with
the little fish in their beak, flip it up into the air, and catch it
face first to swallow it. I imagine they go down much easier that way.
Have you ever held a fish? Those fins would poke painfully if they
swallowed the fish backwards!
Look at the anhinga's eyes. The bird below has intense turquoise
coloring around its eyes, but the one above does not. Both birds are
girls. The turquoise eyed bird is getting ready for nesting season.
Female Anhinga have a brown head and neck. The boys are all black. Both
have black wings with a light dusting of white feathers that reminds me
of a lace doily in the middle of a dark table.
Notice how pointy anhinga beaks are.
also dive, but they
have a beak that curves down at the tip.