In coastal areas of the southeastern United States, anhingas live year-round from North Carolina to Florida to Texas. They prefer lakes, marshes, lagoons, and mangrove swamps thick with tall trees and lush vegetation — near either fresh or saltwater.
In the fork of a tree overhanging the water, anhinga pairs build platform nests out of sticks. Both parents incubate the clutch of two to five eggs for about 30 days.
Hatchlings are completely helpless and dependent on the parents while being brooded for their first 12 days. Chicks are nest-bound for about three weeks until they first climb out and explore the tree branch. If threatened by an intruder, chicks can jump out of the nest and drop into the water below.
Once the threat has passed, they climb out of the water and back up into the nest.
Anhinga chicks fledge at six weeks, staying with their parents for several more weeks prior to becoming independent. Even without their trademark black and white wings, these downy youngsters show off the head and neck profile that gives the Anhinga its infamous nickname, “the snakebird.”
(Jan Baumgartner’s handmade notecards are available at BLVD Beachwear, 5239 Ocean Blvd., and Shelly’s Gift and Christmas Boutique, 4420 S. Tamiami Tr.)