Saturday, December 8, 2012

Anhinga closeups...

Anhingas are amazing birdsand very exotic to northern girls who don't get to see them up close very often. It's understandable then that I was stunned when this bird plopped down beside me as I sat near Lake Thomas in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve on Hilton Head Island. He had been drying his feathers on a branch sticking out of the water when I first saw him, but I wasn't paying much attention to him then. I had a map in front of me, and I was trying to figure out where a roost of Yellow-crowned Night Herons were. Suddenly, he made a gangly jump-flight and landed about 15-20 feet away from me, like he just wanted to drop in and say "Hello..."

Head-on close-up photo of a wet Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga). Love this face!
Hello Mr. Anhinga. Charmed, I'm sure...

I really wanted to find the Yellow-crowned Night Heron roost, but adrenalin from the excitement of an unexpected encounter helped me focus my mind on the anhinga and soon washed away all thoughts of the night herons. I was more than happy to drop the map on the grass and just sit beside this incredibly cool bird. With his long, snaky neck and sharp dagger-like bill, it was hard to take my eyes off him...

...while still dripping with water, this Anhinga sat beside me to dry himself in the evening sun.
The sky blue skin on an Anhinga's face is striking. I'm not normally close enough, however, to see it so clearly! This bird landed about 15-20 feet away from me as I was sitting beside the lake.

...because Anhingas can not waterproof their feathers, they look a little shaggy and waterlogged when wet. Until the sun's heat can dry their feathers, it's also hard for them to fly well.
Anhingas lack oil glands, so they can't waterproof their feathers like ducks and other water birds. His scraggly, wet-dog-fur looking feathers definitely need some attention. A soft fluffy towel to dry off with would have been nice, but the sun and heat did the job just fine. 

...since they have no insulating feathers either, Anhingas require warm temperatures to survive. We don't see many Anhingas up here in Cincinnati.
He immediately struck up his famous feather-drying pose, and looked around. A few small bugs here buzzing near his face, and he'd shake his head now and then and snap at the tiny insects.

A male Anhinga hanging his feathers out to dry...

Why do Anhingas hold their wings open to dry their feathers?
You might already know about why these birds do not waterproof their feathers. If you don't, click here for a post I wrote last year on Anhingas that explains why waterlogged feathers help Anhingas by reducing their buoyancy so they can swim and fish under water.

...and if you haven't seen it yet, head over to 10,000 Birds to read Nate Swick's I and the Bird post on Cormorants, Anhingas and Darters.


I photographed this fellow on June 14, 2012 while we were on our vacation in Hilton Head, SC. It's about time I started posting some of the beautiful South Carolina birds we saw back then! Another post on this guy is in the works...

p.s. I never did find the Yellow-crowned Night Heron roost!

This is the first 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

19 comments:

Montanagirl said...

Kelly, this is a wonderful post! What a striking looking bird, and such an amazing encounter for you! Your photos and video are just super!

TexWisGirl said...

love his sabre-like bill! we see many more cormorants than anhingas here so this was a treat for me. :)

Janice K said...

I've never seen anything like him....Love those blue encircled eyes.

Jo Ann said...

A strange bird indeed! Amazing, too, how close you could get to him for an extended period.

Rick Forrestal said...

Lucky girl . . .
these are magnificent close ups.
You must have given off some very
bird-friendly vibes.
What a face!
(You deserved the visit.)

L Lewis said...

I had the wonderful opportunity to see anhingas when I lived in Florida for a couple of years. But, I never knew about their unusual anatomy until I read your earlier post, Anhinga Sitting on a Nest. I was intrigued by the illustration of the bird's hinged neck, so closely resembling the lever mechanism that gives an atlatl its power and speed. (The atlatl is sometimes called a "spear thrower," the term you used.) For those who are interested, there's a nice illustration of the atlatl at this link.

Carol Mattingly said...

OMG! This guy is absolutely too gorgeous and 'cute'. I love that first image. It is priceless Kelly. Carol

KaHolly said...

You are kidding me! Really? Definitely, one of those 'time stands still' moments!! What great shots.

Julie G. said...

What a fabulous experience for you to be so very close to this animated Anhinga. I was not aware that they had such colorful faces until I viewed this wonderful post. It fun to watch Anhingas fish with their bodies submerged and only their snaky heads angling out of the water. Glorious photographs, Kelly!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

I (think) I see these birds often, drying their wings, but I've never been close enough to see their faces. They're quite striking! Thanks for the close-ups.

Alan Pavey said...

A fantastic set of pics Kelly.

Guy said...

Hi Kelly

I love the first photo. I am glad you made the most of your chance you got some lovely shots.

Guy

Banjo52 said...

What an arresting opening shot! They're all great, but I especially like the curves in #4 and #5. I've gotten to know these birds a bit in Florida, but I don't have shots like these. Super.

Hilke Breder said...

Your images are just exquisite, Kelly. You always get such great close shots - the birds must somehow know to trust you.

Julie Hargreaves said...

Thats a great looking bird

Marie said...

Kelly, these are just stunning photos, and a real testament to what can happen if we just sit still for a little while. I've had birds get so close I couldn't focus on them any more. Sit and they will come!

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Kelly said...

...thank you everyone for the kind words. I couldn't believe my luck. To be so close to such a cool bird might be one of those "once in a lifetime" things. That he jumped over by me when he could have stayed on the branch made it even cooler...

Mary said...

Really interesting birds! You got some great photos in both posts of them.