The Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) is a favourite bird of mine. It was also a favourite bird of my mother, Phylis E. MacKay (1920 – 2005) and I have dedicated this approximately life-sized paintings of a pair of Anhingas, to her memory. The name, Anhinga, derives from the aboriginal Tupi language of Brazil and apparently means “snake bird”, also a colloquial English name that references the very snake-like appearance of the head and neck showing above water. Their long tail is thought by some to resemble the tail of a turkey, giving the species another colloquial name, water turkey. Their plumage, like that of cormorants, is not particularly waterproof and they often swim with their bodies just below the surface, so only the narrow head and long, somewhat serpentine neck show above the surface. They also have denser bones than most birds, lack external nostrils and have all four toes joined by webbing. These features all facilitate underwater swimming. After swimming, they, also like cormorants, will often perch with wings held open, to dry.
There are three other related species in tropical and subtropical regions of the world – Australia, Africa and southern Asia respectively – collectively known as darters. The American Anhinga ranges from the southeastern U.S. south through Mexico and the West Indies and Central America, deep into South America. Birds in the higher latitudes may be migratory. In North America the Anhinga has occurred as far north as Ontario.
This oil painting on a birch panel is approximately life-size and shows the female, above, the male below. The painting is 48 by 36 inches.
Barry Kent MacKay
Bird Artist, Illustrator
Studio: (905) 472 9731
Purchase, print, product info: http://barry-mackay.pixels.com
31 Colonel Butler Drive
Markham, ON L3P 6B6 Canada