The African Darter (Anhinga rufa ), sometimes called the Snakebird, is a water bird of tropical sub-Saharan Africa.
This species builds a stick nest in a tree and lays 3-6 eggs. It often nests with herons, egrets and cormorants.
It is an 80 cm long cormorant-like fish-eating species with a very long neck which occurs in both saline and fresh water, especially near mangroves. It often swims with only the neck above water.
The male is mainly glossy black with white streaking, but females and immature birds are browner. The African Darter differs in appearance from the American Darter most recognisably by its thin white lateral neck stripe against a rufous background colour. The pointed bill should prevent confusion with cormorants.
The African Darter is a member of the darter family, Anhingidae, and is closely related to American (Anhinga anhinga), Oriental (Anhinga melanogaster), and Australian (Anhinga novaehollandiae) Darters.
There are an isolated tiny population of the African Darter at the Lower Mesopotamian wetlands in Iraq. The bird used to breed there in breeding colonies with Pygmy Cormorant and Sacred Ibis and other Waterfowl.
Unlike many other waterbirds the feathers of the African Darter do not contain any oil and are therefore not waterproof. Because of this, the bird is less positively buoyant and its diving capabilities are enhanced. After diving for fish, the feathers can become waterlogged. In order to be able to fly and maintain heat insulation it needs to dry its feathers. We therefore see the African Darter often sitting along the waterside spreading its wings drying its feathers in the wind and the sun.
- Birds of The Gambia by Barlow, Wacher and Disley, ISBN 1-873403-32-1
- Birds of Southern Africa by Sinclair, Hockey, Tarboton, ISBN 978-1-86872-721-6