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Darter

water and fish

DARTER, a name given to water birds of a small family (Anhingida), found in the south ern United States, in Africa, Asia and Australia. The American species (Plotus anhinga), also called the snake-bird and water-turkey, is espe cially common in Florida, and extends north ward to North Carolina and Illinois. In ap pearance and habits the darter resembles the cormorant, especially in the structure of the feet, wings and tail; the bill and neck are like those of the heron, the neck, owing to a peculiar anatomical mechanism, being remarkably flex ible. The general color of the body is dark glossy green with silvery gray markings; wings and tail bluish-black. The tail is rather long and consists of 12 narrowly wedge-shaped quills. Their haunts are in low swampy local ities, by the side of murky streams. They gen erally perch on trees whose branches dip into the water. They are the best fresh-water divers

known, and drop into the water with such surprising skill that the large body makes scarcely any noise, and but little ripple on enter ing the water. When swimming, its body is submerged, and the only part visible is the long neck, writhing about like an aquatic serpent, from which peculiarity its name of snake-bird. Its food consists of small fish, shrimps, young reptiles, leeches, etc. The quantity of fish it can consume is enormous; but, like other birds feed ing on fish and flesh, it can remain several days without food with impunity. It captures fish, not by diving upon them from above, but by pursuing them under water and spearing them with its closed beak. A bulky nest of sticks, roots, etc., is placed in a tree and receives three or four white, chalky eggs.