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4

Australasian Darter

(Anhinga novaehollandiae)
Alternate name(s): "Snake-necked Darter", "Diver*", "Snake-bird", "Shag*"
Aboriginal name(s): Race "novaehollandiae": "koorowera", "marbangye"; "mimal" (WA)

Size: 85-90 cm; wing span 1.2 m
Weight: 1.05-1.35 kg
Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Australasian Darter at Wikipedia .

Click here for classification information

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Not the photos you want? Or are you after even better quality? Have a look here .

ADULT

MALE

Close-up frontal view of a male Australasian Darter studying the observer
[Pilliga Wetlands Walk, NSW, February 2024]

Frontal view of a young male Australasian Darter (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Arkarra Lagoons, Hervey Bay, QLD, November 2023]

Close-up near-frontal view of a male Australasian Darter (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Palmerston Golf Course, Palmerston, NT, February 2021]

Close-up near-lateral view of a male Australasian Darter studying the observer
[Pilliga Wetlands Walk, NSW, February 2024]

Close-up near-lateral view of a male Australasian Darter
[Pilliga Wetlands Walk, NSW, February 2024]

Close-up near-lateral/ventral view of a male Australasian Darter
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2011]

Close-up lateral portrait of a male Australasian Darter in eastern Australia (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Eastlakes Golf Course, Sydney, NSW, December 2013]

Close-up lateral portrait of a male Australasian Darter in western Australia (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Murchison River, near Ajana, WA, May 2018]

Lateral view of a male Australasian Darter drying its plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, August 2010]

Lateral view of a male Australasian Darter (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Banks of the Murchison River, near Ajana, WA, May 2018]

Lateral view of a male Australasian Darter swimming after a dive
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, April 2010]

Lateral view of a male Australasian Darter shows clearly its completely webbed feet (photo courtesy of J. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, September 2014]

Close-up near-dorsal view of a male Australasian Darter basking in the sun (photo courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Lake Barrine, Atherton Tablelands, QLD, July 2019]

Close-up near-dorsal view of a male Australasian Darter looking back at the observer
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2011]

Close-up dorsal view of a male Australasian Darter drying its plumage (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Palmerston Golf Course, Palmerston, NT, December 2020]

Dorsal view of a male Australasian Darter drying its plumage (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Robina, Gold Coast, QLD, May 2015]

Frontal view of a male Australasian Darter in flight (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Kakadu NP, NT, July 2020]

Lateral profile of a "rocket" - male Australasian Darter in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, July 2010]

Dorsal view of a male Australasian Darter in flight; note the rufous streaking on the wing coverts (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Eastlakes Golf Course, Sydney, NSW, December 2013]

Dorsal view of a male Australasian Darter in flight; different phase of the wing beat (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Eastlakes Golf Course, Sydney, NSW, December 2013]

Male Australasian Darter in flight, seen from underneath
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, July 2010]

This Australasian Darter looks like a young male
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

FEMALE

Close-up frontal view of a female Australasian Darter drying its plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, July 2017]

Close-up near-frontal view of a female Australasian Darter drying its plumage
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, September 2016]

Close-up near-lateral view of a female Australasian Darter drying its plumage; this is the bird whose calls were recorded on 25 September 2019 (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Buffalo Creek, Darwin, NT, September 2019]

Close-up lateral view of a female Australasian Darter drying its plumage; this is the bird whose calls were recorded on 25 September 2019 (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Buffalo Creek, Darwin, NT, September 2019]

Lateral view of a female Australasian Darter; note the pronounced kink of the neck
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, May 2013]

Lateral view of a female Australasian Darter (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Near-lateral view of a female Australasian Darter drying its plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Lateral view of a female Australasian Darter in flight; note the pronounced kink of the neck
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, March 2012]

Ventral view of a emale Australasian Darter in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, January 2011]

PAIR

Dorsal view of a pair of Australasian Darters, male on the right (photo courtesy of V. Collins)
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, May 2021]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Frontal view of an immature Australasian Darter; much of the plumage has already turned dark, but the head/neck and wing coverts are still juvenile feathers (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Postman's Track, Lake Samsonvale, QLD, November 2019]

4 immature Australasian Darters in various plumages (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Monger, Perth, WA, March 2022]

Frontal view of an immature male Australasian Darter starting to moult (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Monger, Perth, WA, March 2022]

Close-up near-frontal view of a juvenile Australasian Darter with a Little Black Cormorant
[Pilliga Lagoon, near Pilliga, NSW, February 2024]

Close-up near-lateral view of a juvenile Australasian Darter studying the observer
[Pilliga Lagoon, near Pilliga, NSW, February 2024]

Near-lateral view of a juvenile Australasian Darter drying its feathers (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Brisbane River, Brisbane, QLD, June 2006]

Close-up lateral view of a juvenile Australasian Darter (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Kingaroy, QLD, October 2015]

Lateral view of a juvenile Australasian Darter (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Monger, Perth, WA, March 2022]

Lateral view of a juvenile Australasian Darter preparing for touchdown
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Near-dorsal view of an Australasian Darter in complete wing moult (photo courtesy of S. Kirkby)

Fledgling Australasian Darter - note the growth of the wing feathers in comparison with photos taken 2 weeks earlier, in May 2018, shown below (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Centennial Park, Sydney, NSW, June 2018]

Fledgling Australasian Darter - note the growth of the wing feathers in comparison with photos taken 2 weeks later, in June 2018, shown above (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Centennial Park, Sydney, NSW, May 2018]

Juvenile Australasian Darter resting by the edge of an ephemeral wetland; this bird may have left its nest early, or fallen out, because it is still retaining downy feathers on its neck
[Near Pilliga, NSW, March 2022]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jan - Dec Eggs: 2 - 6 Incubation period: ca. 28 days Fledging age: ca. 50 days

Darters have erratic breeding habits. Given the right conditions, they can in principle breed any time of year, with a preference for the timeframe Aug - Dec in the southern part of the continent and Feb - Apr in the tropical North. Especially inland the breeding cycle will adapt to local water levels.

Nest building: ? Incubation: Female & male Dependent care: Female & male

Nest

"bungobittah", "lar", "malunna", "jindi" [bundjalung] = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks, leaves Height above ground: 3 - 20(?) m

Three tall Australasian Darter chicks in their nest (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Centennial Park, Sydney, NSW, June 2017]

Four tall Australasian Darter chicks in their nest (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Centennial Park, Sydney, NSW, May 2018]

Two tall Australasian Darter chicks in their nest (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Centennial Park, Sydney, NSW, May 2018]

Male Australasian Darter on its nest with chicks
[Pilliga, NSW, December 2022]

The same tree, but a different fork, was still in use 2 months later; this nest had 3 chicks in it, one of which is seen begging for food
[Pilliga, NSW, February 2023]

Female Australasian Darter on its nest with chicks
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, December 2022]

Australasian Darter chicks preening in their nest
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, December 2022]

Male Australasian Darter on its nest (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Lake Broadwater, near Dalby, QLD, January 2018]

Female Australasian Darter on its nest in a dead tree standing in water (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Paradise Dam, Burnett River, near Gayndah, QLD, April 2016]

Example of Australasian Darters nesting in a loose colony with other species, in this case Little Pied Cormorants
(photo courtesy of D. Albertson, LTIM Gwydir Wetlands)
[Gwydir Wetlands, 50 km West of Moree, NSW, February 2015]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "mirk", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena", "pum-pum" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 58 x 37 mm Colour: Creamy, with chalky coating Shape: Long elliptical

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial? Mobility: Sedentary/dispersive Elementary unit: Solitary

Hunting under water, Australasian Darters are one of the bird species that can regularly be seen drying their plumage sitting on a perch in bright sunlight.

Dorsal view of a male Australasian Darter drying its plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, April 2013]

Australasian Darters and Little Pied Cormorants drying their plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Sandy Camp Road Wetlands, Brisbane, QLD, September 2017]

When excited, e.g. when wary of a human observer, male Australasian Darters will display their hackles.

Near-dorsal view of a male Australasian Darter issuing a warning when disturbed while drying its plumage; this is the bird whose faint clicking calls were recorded on 3 December 2015
[Mudgee, NSW, December 2015]

This immature Australasian Darter was found by us on a rockface by the sea
[Lee Point, Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Food, Diet

Australasian Darters feed exclusively on fish. They spear their prey, rather than grabbing it like herons or egrets. They then thrust the prey upward and maneuvre it into the slender bill by turning it.

Female Australasian Darter with its prey
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

darter_20230227_2.mp3 (NW NSW) Contact call (male) © MD
darter_20210613.m4a (NW NSW) Contact call © MD
darter_pb_20190925.m4a (Darwin, NT) Contact call (female) © PB
darter_20180621.m4a (NW NSW) Contact call (female) © MD
darter_20230227_3.mp3 (NW NSW) Warning calls (male) © MD
darter_20230227.mp3 (NW NSW) Arrival (male) - warning? © MD
darter_20210613_2.m4a (NW NSW) Female leaving perch, male arriving © MD
darter_20210613_3.m4a (NW NSW) Male moving around on perch © MD
darter_20230227_5.mp3 (NW NSW) Begging calls (nestlings) © MD
darter_20230227_4.mp3 (NW NSW) Begging calls (nestlings)
(+ Superb Fairy-wren)
© MD

More Australasian Darter sound recordings are available at xeno-canto.org .

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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If interested, please CLICK HERE. Credits to contributors are given HERE.