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Australasian Darter - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Neil Fifer
Sydney, Australia, July 2003

Alternative name: Australian Darter

Anhinga novaehollandiae


Photo © by Ken Doy
Sandy Camp Rd Wetlands, Queensland, Australia, 4 April 2017

An 85–97 cm (33½-38¼ in)

  • Long snake-like neck.
  • Sharp pointed bill
  • Long, rounded tail


  • Dark brownish black
  • Glossy black upperwings
  • Streaked and spotted white, silver-grey and brown
  • White or pale brown stripe from the bill to the neck
  • Breast is chestnut brown

Female and immature

  • Grey-brown above
  • Pale grey to white below
  • White neck stripe less distinct in young birds

Similar Species

Distinguished from bulkier cormorants by the Darter's slender body, long, snake-like neck and its pointed, rather than hooked, bill.


Australia to Lesser Sundas, Moluccas and New Guinea


Formerly lumped with African Darter and Oriental Darter.


This is a monotypic species[1].


Clean fresh water in lakes and large slow-flowing rivers.


Male in flight
Photo © by Hans&Judy Beste
Gold Coast, Queensland, June 2013

Often swims with only the snake-like neck visible above the water, or drying its wings while perched. Clumsy on land, they can soar gracefully to great heights on thermals with a cross-shaped silhouette when flying.


They spear their prey (mainly fish but also other aquatic animals e.g. snakes, frogs, crustaceans etc.) underwater as they swim.


They build a stick platform nest in a tree. The clutch consists of 3-6 pale blue eggs that become scratched and stained over the incubation period. Nests are usually solitary, but Darters may nest within loose colonies of other tree-nesting water birds such as cormorants, spoonbills and ibis.


Usually quiet; makes clicking sounds and a variety of caws, hisses and clicks at nest.


Generally sedentary, with sporadic movements usually related to drought conditions sometimes moving long distances (over 2000 km) when not breeding.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Birdsinbackyards
  3. del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Australasian Darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/467296 on 3 January 2020).
  4. Marchant, S.; Higgins, P.J. (eds.) 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds. Vol. 1, ratites to ducks. Oxford University Press: Melbourne.
  5. Sagar, P.M. 2013. Darter. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz
  6. Schodde, R., Kirwan, G.M. and Porter, R. (2012). Morphological differentiation and speciation among darters (Anhinga). Bulletin British Ornithologists' Club 4: 283-294

Recommended Citation

External Links

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