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Anhinga drying its wings: photo from the South Florida Water Management District

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Anhinga Press's logo depicts an anhinga (scientific name Anhinga anhinga) spreading its wings.

Anhingas adopt this rather bizarre-looking pose for long stretches of time, remaining immobile and apparently oblivious even to passing boaters (such as those taking the boat tours of the waters at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park).

This posture is commonly assumed to facilitate drying of the anhinga's wings. More recently, researchers attribute it to the need for the anhinga to regulate its body temperature on sunny days which are nonetheless cooler than normal. According to the Web site of the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, managed by the National Audobon Society:

Anhingas... have unusually low metabolic rates and unusually high rates of heat loss from their bodies. Whether wet or dry, they exhibit spread-wing postures mostly under conditions of bright sunlight and cool ambient temperatures, and characteristically orient themselves with their backs to the sun. Thus, it appears that Anhingas adopt a spread-wing posture primarily for thermoregulation -- to absorb solar energy to supplement their low metabolic heat production and to offset partly their inordinately high rate of heat loss due to convection and (when wet) evaporation from their plumage.

The anhinga is also known as the snakebird for its habit of swimming with all but its head and neck submerged below the surface of the water. If you encounter the sinuous creature zipping in your direction across a lake, river, or pond, it's easy to see where this nickname came from.

Closely related to cormorants and darters, anhingas are found in various locations around the Deep South, but especially Florida: a suitable mascot indeed for a publisher (such as Anhinga Press) with a history of long-standing commitment to the state's cultural life.

Like eagles, owls, flickers, scissor-tailed flycatchers, and most other birds in the United States, anhingas are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Want more information about anhingas? Try these links:

  • The US Geological Service offers a good introduction, including several photos. This site includes technical information as well as general.
  • The Birds of the St. John's River site has basic information about anhingas, including more photographs.
  • The US Department of Agriculture's Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) includes a search of numerous scientific and image databases for information about anhingas.
  • A wonderful source of general information, not only about the anhinga but about Florida wildlife in general, is the Museum of Science in Miami.

  • And of course, what's probably the first resource you may think of when it comes to learning about birds, including the anhinga? That's right: the National Audubon Society. Their site includes not only a reduced-scale copy of John James Audubon's "Birds of America" print of anhingas, but also Audubon's complete text description of the species.

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Document last modified: May 31, 2014 2:17 PM