Darter

DarterOther Names: Australian Darter, Snake-bird
Scientific Name: Anhinga novaehollandiae
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Body Length: 85–90 cm
Incubation: 26–30 days
Number of eggs: 4–6

Distribution: Most of Australia except central arid regions.
Habitat: Freshwater areas like rivers, swamps and lakes.

Description: The male Darter is almost entirely black. Females are similar but have a pale creamy chest and abdomen. The head is marked with a white stripe below the eye. The Darter’s head is streamlined like its pointed bill. It uses its bill as a spear to catch prey.

Diet: The Darter is a carnivore and eats fish and other aquatic animals. The Darter silently submerges itself into the water and stalks unwary fish.

In the wild: When Darters lay eggs, both parents take turns to sit on the eggs. At changeover, the arriving bird makes a ‘kah’ call several times from nearby and waits for the response. Then there is a brief greeting and as the sitting bird stands, the mate pushes it aside to sit on the nest. Both birds defend the nest site by either hissing or attacking.

Threats: Like other waterbirds, the Darter is threatened by destruction of wetland habitats.

At Perth Zoo: Darters can be seen inside the Australian Wetlands drying themselves in the sun.

Did you know? The Darter’s feathers are not waterproof, so they will spread their wings to dry them in the sun. This also helps to control skin parasites.

Download the Darter Fact Sheet (pdf).

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