Oriental darter

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The Oriental darter (Anhinga melanogaster) belongs to the family Anhingidae. The Oriental darter species is distributed in Indian Subcontinent, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia.

Taxonomy of Oriental darter

  • Scientific Name: Anhinga melanogaster
  • Common Name: Oriental darter
  • French: Anhinga roux; German: Orient-Schlangenhalsvogel; Spanish: Anhinga asi├ítica;
  • Other names: Anhinga melanogaster Pennant, 1769; Darter; snakebird;
  • Family: Anhingidae › Suliformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Pennant, 1769)
Anhinga melanogaster is closely related to American (A. anhinga), African (A. rufa) and Australasian (A. novaehollandiae) darter species. It is also known as Plotus melanogaster.

Indian birds - Image of Oriental darter - Anhinga melanogaster
Indian birds - Oriental darter - Anhinga melanogaster


The Oriental darter is a large bird, measuring 85 to 100 cm in length and weighing 1,000 to 1,800 grams. The wingspan is 115 to 130 cm. The bill is long and measures 7 to 8 cm. These birds have wettable feathers and are often seen perched on rock or tree branch, holding the wings open for drying. These darter birds have long slender neck. The crown and neck of the bird are brown, darkening downwards to become black in the body plumage. The wing coverts and tertials having silvery streaks along the shaft.

There is a pale line over the eye and throat and a line runs along the sides of the neck. The iris is white with a yellow ring around it. The breeding birds have darker grey tarsi and toes with yellow webbing. The tail is long and made up of twelve stiff feathers. The Oriental darter birds produce grunting and croaking sounds and a disyllabic chigi-chigi-chigi call.


The Oriental darter birds inhabit freshwater habitats like ponds, lakes, swamps, reservoirs and slow moving streams.

Feeding habits

The Oriental darter spears prey under water with its long pointed bill, brings it above water and tosses it into the air before swallowing.


The breeding season of Oriental darter is June to August in northern India, April–May in southwestern India and in winter in southeastern India. They construct platform nests with twigs on tree branches. The clutch usually has three to six spindle shaped bluish-green eggs. The chicks feed by thrusting their heads down the throat of their parents.


The Oriental darter distributed in the Indian Subcontinent and southeast Asia. They are distributed in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia.

Movement Patterns

The Oriental darter is mainly sedentary. It may locally move in search of feed and water bodies.

Status and conservation

The population of darter birds is estimated to number about 33,000 individual birds. These Oriental darter birds are generally becoming uncommon and declining throughout Asia. They are considered near threatened. Habitat loss, human activities near breeding habitats, degradation of foraging areas, hunting and pollution are the main threats for their conservation.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these darter birds and has listed them as "Near Threatened".

Biological classification of Anhinga melanogaster
Species:A. melanogaster
Binomial name:Anhinga melanogaster
Distribution:Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and Sri Lanka;
Feeding habits:fish, water snakes, crustaceans and amphibians;
IUCN status listing:
Near Threatened

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