Family Darters (Anhingidae)

Least Concern

African Darter (Anhinga rufa)


French: Anhinga d’Afrique German: Afrika-Schlangenhalsvogel Spanish: Anhinga africana

Plotus rufus


, 1802,



Often considered conspecific with A. melanogaster and A. novaehollandiae, but (as indicated in recent morphological study#R) uniquely possesses strong and uniformly rufous neck and throat in two tones (dark above, paler below) in male (3); plumes (forming white facial stripe) elongate when in breeding condition (in melanogaster and novaehollandiae these feathers are undifferentiated) (2); plain brown secondary coverts (perhaps only seasonally) (2); narrower streaks on carpal area and wing-coverts, appearing more knife-like than tongue-like in other two taxa (ns[2]); greenish-black gular area on breeding male (ns[2]). Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. r. rufa (Daudin, 1802) – Africa S of Sahara, from Senegambia to N Sudan and S to South Africa.
  • A. r. vulsini Bangs, 1918 – Madagascar.
  • A. r. chantrei (Oustalet, 1882) – wetlands of lower Tigris–Euphrates (Iraq, Iran); formerly also Turkey.
  • Descriptive notes

    85–97 cm; 1058–1815 g; wingspan 116–128 cm; bill 71–87 mm. Scapulars elongated and lanceolate; bare part colours variable. Juvenile similar to female, but white and black... read more


    Usually silent, except in vicinity of nest, where it utters a variety of harsh rattling and... read more


    Mainly still, shallow inland waters, such as freshwater or alkaline lakes, slow flowing rivers,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly fish, including Cichlidae and Cyprinidae; prey species vary with locality. Also takes amphibians, water snakes, terrapins and... read more


    Seasonal in some areas, at any time of year in others. At Senegal delta, egg-laying recorded Aug–Sept and nearly fledged young present Dec–... read more


    Generally sedentary, with sporadic movements usually related to drought conditions. Vagrants have... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common to locally abundant, with 10,000 nests in colony at Chagana, in Tanzania, 1962. Scarce and apparently declining in W Africa,... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2019). African Darter (Anhinga rufa). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 June 2019).