darter or anhinga (ănhĭngˈgə) [key], common name for a very slender, black water bird very closely related to the cormorant. It frequents the wooded borders of freshwater lakes, rivers, and swamps in tropical and warm temperate regions—in America, from the SE United States to Cuba and Argentina; in Africa, S of the Sahara desert; in Asia, in the southern regions; and also in Australia and New Guinea. Darters ( Anhinga anhinga ) eat fish, crustaceans, reptiles, and insects, attacking their prey with rapierlike thrusts of their sharp beaks, whence the name darter. Another common name, snake-bird, describes the darter's habit of swimming with its body submerged and only the snakelike head and long, curved neck exposed. In the S United States darters are called water turkeys, for no apparent reason. They nest in small colonies with ibises and herons, building bulky nests lined with leaves. The helpless young are fed by regurgitation. Darters are strong fliers and migrate annually. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Pelecaniformes, family Anhingidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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