Length: 85-90 cm Common
The Darter sinks to hunt its prey with only its head and neck exposed. It resembles a snake, hence the popular name, snake bird. The bird often stalks small fish or waits for them to approach. It holds back its S shaped neck, then suddenly strikes spearing the victim on its rapier like bill. Reversed serrations on the bill prevent the quarry from escaping. Darters frequent sheltered shallow lakes and may dive for up to a minute at a time. They rest on branches or logs and like Cormorants hand their wings out to dry.
Unlike most waterbirds, the plumage of Darters and Cormorants is not waterproof. Its permeability lowers its buoyancy and allows the bird to hunt underwater. On shore, the Darter removes water by squeezing its feathers through the bill and repels water with oil from enlarged preen glands at the base of the tail. Darters, like Cormorants, fly well. They leap to take off and alternate a series of flaps with straight glides. In silhouette the fan shaped tail is characteristic.
The male selects the nest site, defends the area around it, and decorates it with leafy twigs. It also waves its wings to attract females flying by. Twig nests may be used for several years. One brood per season. Eggs: 4; usually white tinged with green.