Size: Averages 91 cm, including long bill, neck and tail, 1.05–1.8 kg.
Range and lifestyle: Widespread in Australia, preferring larger lakes, lagoons, rivers, estuaries and sheltered marine waters with fringing vegetation or other places to perch.
Food: Large fish, amphibians, terrapins (turtles) and water snakes.
Breeding: They breed in trees, choosing firm spots in forks, crevices or larger branches. Clutch size 2-6 eggs, usually 4.
Darters feed by perching on tree branches, posts and rocks low over the surface of the water, from where they can slither quickly into the water to spear their prey.
Swallowing larger prey takes them some time.
Because they need to spread their wings to dry, they often perch for long periods.
Their other name of ‘Snake-bird’ arises from their habit of floating very low in the water, body submerged with only their snake-like head and neck showing above the surface.
They usually nest in mixed colonies with cormorants, ibises and/or egrets and herons.
Text © Detlef Davies 2022 CC BY-NC-SA
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