About the Anhinga

The Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) is one of the most often sighted aquatic bird species in the Tambopata jungle, along with kingfishers and herons. However, Anhinga occur in naturally low numbers.  They are a large and long-tailed bird with a neck like a needle. Anhinga need open areas of water to fish. Therefore, you never find them in small, shaded creeks that flow through the Amazon jungle.

You can regognize Anhingas by their thin neck, sharp, needle-like bill, and long, barred tail. It shares the same habitat with the similar Neotropic Cormorant. Tell them apart by a longer tail, pointed bill, and plumage (partly brown in young birds, silvery feathers on the backs of adults). Anhingas are excellent swimmers. They paddle beneath the surface of the water with webbed feet as they search for fish. Anhingas catch their prey with a stab of their sharp beak. They spend the rest of their time with wings partly open, perched on branches or snags that stick out of the water.

How to identify an Anhinga
Anhinga in the Amazon Jungle
Anhinga by Alastair Rae


To learn to identify anhinga download our illustrated plate and photographic guide to Amazon Jungle Animals.

Some interesting facts about the Anhinga:
  • “Snake bird”: The word “Anhinga” comes from the Tupi language and means, “Snake bird”. The reason for this name is immediately apparent as soon as one watches an Anhinga swimming through the water with just its serpentine neck and head sticking above the surface.
  • The darter of the Americas: The Anhinga is in a small family of birds known as “darters”. There are three other species of darters on the globe; one in Africa, one in Asia, and another in Australia.
  • Cannot waterproof its feathers: Anhingas can’t waterproof their feathers by preening them with oil from an uropygial gland. Their plumage therefore becomes waterlogged when diving beneath the surface. This is probably an adaptation for catching prey underwater.
  • Good fliers: Anhingas may be at home in the water, but they also frequently take to the air. Anhingas soar high above a river or rainforest on flat wings. The long neck and tail gives them a cross-like appearance in flight.
How to plan your Amazon tour to see Anhingas and other jungle wildlife:
  • Take a trip to an oxbow lake: In Tambopata, you see Anhingas at Tres Chimbadas and Condenado oxbow lakes. The calm, fish-filled waters of this type of habitat provide excellent foraging opportunities for this highly aquatic, piscivorous species.
  • Watch for them on snags: fairly large, dark, long-tailed birds perched on a snag that sticks out of the water, are usually one of two things; an Anhinga or a Neotropic Cormorant. Both love to perch on branches that stick out of rivers and oxbow lakes but the Anhinga has a longer tail and sharper, pointed bill. To practice, download your Amazon Jungle Animal identification guide and the beautiful illustrated plates of Amazon birds.
  • Sign up for a Free Trial of the AmazonCam: even if Amazon Travel is not in your short-term plans you can connect with jungle wildlife. Sign-up for your free trial of the Wired Amazon and help us identify the jungle animals that are on the photos taken by our 20 square kilometer grid of 78 cameras snapping away in the middle of the Amazon jungle.
  • And of course, when you travel to the Amazon, please drop by to chat with the Amazon Travel Experts . We will help you get there.


As Seen in

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