Australian Wildlife

  Darter (Anhinga melanogaster)

Darter | Anhinga melanogaster photo
darter (Anhinga melanogaster) suns himself proudly at Zillman Waterholes, Virginia, Brisbane.

Image by Jan Smith, Brisbane, Australia - Some rights reserved.    (view image details)

Darter | Anhinga melanogaster photo
Darter, Victoria, Australia

Image by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos - GNU Free Documentation License.    (view image details)


The Darter is a large slender water bird with a long snake-like neck and sharp pointed bill. Male Darters are dark brownish black with chestnut brown under parts. The wings are glossy black on top, streaked and spotted white and silver. There is a white stripe from the bill to extending across each side of the face and down upper part of the neck. Females and immatures are grey-brown above and pale grey or white below. Immatures have less prominent neck stripe. The Darter often swims with only the snake-like neck showing above the water. It is similar in appearance to the cormorants but has much longer neck and more pointed bill.

Other Names
Shag, Snake Bird

85 - 90cm

wetlands and sheltered coastal waters, mainly in the Tropics and Subtropics. Prefers waters with perching places such as tree trunks or stumps where it rests and dries its wings. Common on inland waters as well as calm coastal waters.

Stabs fish with its sharp bill and swallows them hole. Also eats other small water animals and insects.

Nests in colonies with other tree-nesting water birds such as cormorants, spoonbills and ibis. Nest is made of sticks in the fork of a tree standing in water about 3 - 4m above the water. s surface. In hot weather, adults keep chicks cool by shaking water over them. Chicks can swim after about 4 weeks and start to fly at about 7 weeks.

found across most of Queensland, New South and Victoria. Also in northern parts of NT and western parts of Western Australia. Not common from Adelaide to Perth along southern coastal areas, and not common in Tasmania.

distribution map showing range of Anhinga melanogaster in Australia

Map is from Atlas of Living Australia website at https://biocache.ala.org.au licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia License

Common Name:Darter