A few wading bird pairs are just now hatching young even as some of the older chicks have fledged. I saw just one tiny chick underneath this female nesting Anhinga–you can just see the head at the lower left of the adult. Some of the other broods this year have had four chicks.
There may be more to come in this nest as the eggs may hatch over several days.
Anhingas feed their young by regurgitating food which the chicks actively retrieve by sticking their heads up the parent’s esophagus. Painful looking, especially when the chicks get bigger.
The male Anhingas have been showing off as they get ready for breeding season. The blue-green coloration around their eyes is very pronounced and I’ve seen them displaying their wings in dramatic poses.
This male was in a tree above the pond-side trail flashing his wings. I didn’t see any females nearby and he soon took off with a flourish.
He didn’t go far, landing in a nearby tree that already has a Great Blue Heron nest and several Great Egret nests.
This was a tiny meal for an Anhinga and I have no idea how they locate such a fish while swimming under water. See my post Anhinga Feeding from two years ago to see how big a fish they are capable of swallowing.
This Anhinga was performing his drying ritual fairly close to the dike. Hoping he wouldn’t fly I took this from the car, which limited my angle. This was the shadowy end of the pond and I didn’t capture much color, but of course I liked the reflection.
I caught this Anhinga as he was climbing out of the water onto an Alligator ramp. This waterway is a canal along the edge of an old rice field impoundment that attracts many fish eating birds.
Anhingas feathers are not waterproof which helps them to swim and hunt low in the water but also means they have to leave the water to dry off.
You can see the gular pouch extending below. Similar to a pelican’s pouch, this skin between the beak and neck helps the bird “open wide” and swallow much larger fish than you might expect.
I haven’t seen an Anhinga do this while drying off and am not sure what he was up to. I waited awhile to see, but like many of the water birds these fellows can spend a long time doing nothing and I lose interest or get distracted by something more interesting.
There is a touch of fall color in the “skinny tree” which earlier this year hosted one Great Blue Heron and several Great Egret families. Now the tree serves as an occasional landing spot for a passing bird.
This Anhinga chose it as a drying off spot and executed a smooth landing.
He then turned his back to the sun and spread his wings to dry off.
Alligators follow their instincts when they hear a splash in the water…lets go check it out.
An Anhinga had jumped into the pond and was swimming with his head up. First one then two Alligators were in hot pursuit.
I was too far away to really see what was happening. In fact I probably shouldn’t have bothered with these images with the glare on the water, but it was like watching a train wreck. I’m not sure if this churning of the water was the two Alligators having a spat or if the bird had ducked under and the gators lunged.
The Alligators backed away a bit then the Anhinga popped up between them then leisurely swam along as if he were alone. A minute or two later they all lost interest and went their separate ways.
On two recent afternoons several Anhingas gathered in this Cypress Tree on one of the rookery islands.
There were at least five Anhinga nests on the island this spring, and probably more that I couldn’t see based on the activity. The two lower birds in the next image may be young from one of those nests.
A Little Blue Heron and two juvenile Great Blue Herons can also be seen in the wider view. Those two GBH had not fledged yet but sure were curious about the flights of other birds.
These three chicks really look like Anhingas now, with the classic black and white “piano key” feathers on their wings.
Like the wading bird chicks in nearby nests these older chicks are spending more time interacting with each other as they wait for the parents to bring food. These three were so busy they didn’t even notice when one of the parents was on its approach.
Just as well, because she kept right on going.
I don’t know what made her abort her landing, but she circled around the tree for a second try and successful touch down.