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African Darter Anhinga rufa
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Anhinga melanogaster, A. novaehollandiae (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) and A. rufa (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993, Dowsett and Forbes-Watson 1993), species occurring in Asia, Australasia and Africa, are retained as separate spec

Trend justification
The overall trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour This species is mainly sedentary (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005) but is subject to little known opportunistic local movements related to drought and wetland conditions (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005). The timing of breeding is seasonal in some areas, but can be at any time of the year (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species usually breeds in mixed-species colonies (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005), and roosts nightly in groups of 10 to 50 (Hockey et al. 2005) (sometimes up to 100) in trees, bushes or reedbeds often in mixed-species groups (Brown et al. 1982), although it is generally a solitary feeder (Brown et al. 1982, Johnsgard 1993). Its moulting habits are little known, but some adults may go through a flightless moult period after breeding (Hockey et al. 2005). Habitat The species shows a preference for still, shallow, inland freshwater and alkaline lakes and slow-flowing rivers fringed with reeds and trees (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993). It may also occur in swamps (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993), reservoirs (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993, Hockey et al. 2005), river oxbows (Johnsgard 1993) and forested streams (Brown et al. 1982), typically avoiding marine habitats (Hockey et al. 2005) but occasionally foraging in mangrove swamps (del Hoyo et al. 1992), estuaries (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993, Hockey et al. 2005), shallow tidal inlets (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992) and coastal lagoons (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005). It generally avoids fast-flowing rivers, areas with dense floating vegetation (Hockey et al. 2005), and narrow, steep-banked or seasonally drained habitats (Johnsgard 1993), preferring to feed in water 1-3 m deep (up to 6 m [Hockey et al. 2005]) with forested margins or scattered emergent trees and islets with dense vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species requires trees, bushes or reedbeds for roosting (Brown et al. 1982), and prefers dead trees, rocks or banks to rest on after feeding (Hockey et al. 2005). Diet Its diet consists mainly of fish such as Cichlidae and Cyprinidae (del Hoyo et al. 1992), although it will also take amphibians, water snakes, terrapins, aquatic insects, crustaceans and molluscs (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The species nests in mixed-species colonies (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992), each pair building a nest platform of sticks and other vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1992) in forks of trees or in reedbeds 1-6 m high (Brown et al. 1982) (often c.2 m [del Hoyo et al. 1992]) over water or on islands (Hockey et al. 2005).

This species is persecuted in some areas of southern Africa because of its perceived (actually minimal) impact on trout and other recreational fish species (Hockey et al. 2005). In Burundi it is threatened by disturbance, exploitation at colonies (Hockey et al. 2005), destruction of habitats and environmental pollution (Ntahuga 2000).

Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hockey, P. A. R.; Dean, W. R. J.; Ryan, P. G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

Johnsgard, P. A. 1993. Cormorants, darters, and pelicans of the world. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.

Ntahuga, L. 2000. Impact of African traditions on avian conservation in Burundi. Ostrich 71(1&2): 21.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Anhinga rufa. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Anhingidae (Darters)
Species name author (Daudin, 1802)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 18,000,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change
- 2015 European Red List assessment