Sometimes it can be hard to tell two different species of bird apart. Two such birds are the anhinga and cormorant. I will compare both birds’ appearances and other behaviour. Once you have finished reading this article, you will easily identify both birds when you are out bird-watching.
Anhinga vs Cormorant
The easiest way to identify between the two
The quickest way to tell them apart is from their differently-shaped beaks, necks and tails. The anhinga has a straight thin bill, while the cormorant has a hooked bill. The anhinga has a long and more slender neck than the cormorant. The neck resembles a snake, giving it the nickname “snake bird”. They also have the nickname “water turkey” for their turkey-like tail, which is longer than the cormorants.
Male and female anhingas are easy to tell apart. The male’s feathers are dark grey to black with white spots on their wings. In contrast, females have golden brown necks and heads. A cormorant’s plumage is dark brown to black, with a yellow patch at the base of its beak.
Feeding on fish
The anhinga spears the side of its fish with its knife-like bill. They then come on land and work the fish off their beak before swallowing it. Cormorants dive down and grab fish with their hooked bill and swim to the surface to eat the fish whole.
Swimming and posing like a pro
Unlike most other water birds, the anhinga and cormorant produce less oil to waterproof their feathers. This allows them to dive more easily as less air gets trapped amongst their feathers. So after every swimming session, they can be seen standing on the shore or branch with their wings outstretched and drying.
You can see why the anhinga gets its nickname “snake bird” when swimming. Only their neck and head show, giving the illusion of a snake swimming. Cormorants, on the other hand, float on the water’s surface and then dive down like a duck to find fish.
Anhinga vs Cormorant: Facts Summary
|Body Build||Sleek body||More robust than the anhinga|
|Bill Shape||Straight thin bill||Hooked bill|
|Tail Difference||Long tail||Short tail|
|Neck Difference||Long neck||Short neck|
|Main Habitat||freshwater||coastal waters|
|Egg Clutch||2 – 5 eggs||3 – 4 eggs|
|Migration||Short distance||Medium distance|