Sunday, December 16, 2012

More Anhinga photos; spread-wing posture and feather closeups...

...continued from the previous post, Anhinga closeups: those crazy Anhingas.
If you read the previous post, you know this bird came very close to where I was sitting and started drying out his feathers. Originally he was sunning himself on a branch in the water, then hopped on shore near me. After a while he returned to the branch. If I didn't know better, I'd think he wanted to make sure I could photograph all of him instead of just the closeups of his face. His look back at me seems to say, "Are you getting this?"

An Anhinga perched on a branch in the spread-wing posture sunning himself.
A beautiful Anhinga looks over his shoulder at me while I photograph him.
"Yes, Mr. Anhinga. I'm getting it..."

An Anhinga sun bathes while he dries his feathers. He's on a branch in Lake Thomas on HHI.
An Anhinga sits in the spread-wing posture as he continues to dry his feathers. 

...even when dry, an Anhinga will sit in the sun with wings spread to capture the sun's warm rays.
Anhingas sit in the sun with their wings spread even when they are dry because they also use this posture for thermoregulation. 
Anhingas and cormorants both use this posture to dry their feathers, but Anhingas rely on the posture to help keep them warm too. Anhingas have low metabolic rates and high rates of heat loss from their bodies. This is why you don't find many Anhingas up north. They need the sun's warming rays to survive. According to Stanford University (click here for the article), dry Anhingas use the spread-wing posture when the ambient temperature is cool but the sun is shining brightly. They sit with their backs to the sun for optimum heat absorption. Why don't cormorants do this? Because they don't have to. Their feather structure is different. Although both have "wettable" feathers allowing them to lose buoyancy so they can dive and swim under the water to hunt for fish, only the outer part of a Cormorant's feathers becomes waterlogged. This creates an insulating layer of air next to the skin when the bird is under water.

Closeup of an Anhinga's feathers.
Anhinga's feathers become wet all the way to the skin. Anihingas use the muscles in their skin to make the feathers stand on end to help them dry.

Closeup of the interior of an Anhinga's wing...the sun is shining through feathers.
The sun shines through the wing feathers on an Anhinga (interior view) creating an amber glow.

Close-up photo of an Anhinga's feathers. The small feathers on top look spiky because the muscles are holding them up on edge, to help them dry.
...small feathers "standing on edge" make the upper part of this Anginga's wings look spiky.

Water Turkey and Snakebird are two common nicknames of the Anhinga.
"Water Turkey" is one of an Anhinga's nicknames. It's easy to see its origin...the striped pattern and light tips on a spread Anhinga's tail resemble a turkey's. It's other nickname, "Snakebird," is easy to figure out too. When an Anhinga's body is submerged and only its shiny, wet head and neck are visible above the water, it looks like a black snake swimming along (click here for a photo in a previous post).

...I have another post on this fellow in the works. It focuses on the beautiful pattern of white feathers on the back of an Anhinga's wings. I photographed this bird on June 14, 2012 while we were on our vacation in Hilton Head, SC. I was sitting on the bank of Lake Thomas in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve on Hilton Head Island.

This is the second of three Anhinga posts:
Part 1: Anhinga close-ups
Part 2: More Anhinga photos; spread-wing posture
Part 3: The silver feathers on an Anhinga's wings


Carol Mattingly said...

He is a ham for your camera Kelly and he is beautiful.

Roy said...

Yup, that bird is definitely mugging for the camera. What a ham!

Janice K said...

He put on quite the show, and I'm glad it was for you because now we can enjoy it too.

Have a wonderful Christmas, Kelly!

Betsy Adams said...

Gorgeous anhinga photos... I love seeing them with their wings spread out like that. It was as if they were 'posing' for you.

Tammie Lee said...

hello Kelly,

your photos from this post and the previous are awesome, artful, detailed marvelous visions of this unique creature! loved seeing them. how fine that he chose you to sit next to!

i have also see turkey vultures dry out like this after a rain.

Arija said...

Nice one, amazing how the feathers look like rows of spears

Marco Alpha said...

Hey Kelly,
Very nice shots!! Great to see the colors of these wonderful feathers.

Many greetings,

Dan Huber said...

Wonderful photos Kelli, a beautiful bird I hope to see someday

holdingmoments said...

Two excellent posts on these Anhingas Kelly. Stunning pictures.

Montanagirl said...

Kelly, you always manage to take my breath away! Such a beautiful bird, and you photographed him to perfection!

Mary Ann Gieszelmann said...

I love that you give all the details about their feathers, etc. Amazing adaptations in nature--e.g. the differences between anhingas and cormorants.

Banjo52 said...

Still more great photos (the definition!) and good info. Thanks, Kelly. It's a fascinating bird. Looking forward to the next post.

Marie said...

OMG Kelly these are gorgeous! I am headed down to Florida in a few weeks and one of my goals is to get some good shots of a male. Don't know if I can top these though. Wow!