Australian Bush Birds
Darter  -  Anhinga melanogaster
Male darter
Male Darter with wings spread out in the sun; the bird is black overall with a white streak along the neck and white streaks on wing and tail. Camden Haven River at North Haven
female darter
Female Darter with wings spread out; wings are black underneath, the body is pale grey below and grey/brown above. Yellow River, Kakadu Nat Pk.
map map The Darter - Anhinga melanogaster - is a medium-size water bird (85 to 90 cm long, span to 1.2 metres). Long, sinuous neck with small, sleek head and straight, dagger-like yellow bill. Dark grey to glossy black upper body; wings iridescent black with narrow cream/white streaks. White stripe along neck from eye to first bend in the neck. Long rounded tail. Legs and feet flesh coloured, unlike cormorants.

Males have black undersides and are black underwing; the breast may be chestnut with colour extending up to the bill. Females have grey-brown to black upper surface, black underwing and white below the body.

Darter - page 2
darter darter
Left; Male Darter at Bundaberg; note the black feathers overall with black neck and white side streak.
Right; Male Darter resting under water with head and neck above the surface at Fogg Dam, near Darwin. The chestnut patch on the breast of breeding males has extended up the throat, white streak and black at back of head and neck are unchanged.
female head darter
Left; Head of female Darter. The white streak along the neck is visible, while the overall colour is closer to grey than black. The pointed beak is the same as the male's
Right; Young Darter yet to grow feathers on the body. Flesh coloured web feet grasping the perch are typical; young darters have head and neck colouring similar to adult females with often less prominent neck stripe.
in water female darter
Left; Darter in the water with body submerged while head and neck are raised above the surface.
Right; Female Darter with black back and white under body.
Juveniles are paler with white undersides. The neck stripe is less distinct.

Frequently seen in solitary perches near water with wings outstretched to dry. Often in water floating very low with only the head showing; disappears below the surface easily with no ripples. Hunts underwater using the beak as a spear by straightening the kinked neck. Frequently with cormorants.

Darter - page 3
Lives in lakes, rivers, swamps and estuaries; in wetlands where water depth is greater then 0.5 metres and there are trees, logs and well-vegetated banks. Rarely in marine habitats.

Common in suitable habitats.