Anhinga vs. Cormorant: 12 Key Differences

Anhinga vs. Cormorant. Many people find it difficult to differentiate between these two types of birds. However, when comparing the two, you will find that there are many differences that one can spot to differentiate the two birds. So, the next time you are out bird watching, and you think you may be seeing one of these birds, here are some tips to help you select the right bird.

Incredible facts about Anhingas

Anhinga hunting
Anhinga prefer to spend their days in shallow, slow-moving water, taking advantage of nearby rocks and perches to dry themselves off.

© Jean-Baptiste Toussaint /

When Anhingas enter the water, their feathers get soaked because they do not have any oil glands like other waterfowl. However, this allows them to move more efficiently through the water. Therefore, they must stand in the sun with their wings extended to dry themselves when they end up in the water.

Other facts include:

  • It can weigh up to 2.7 lbs
  • Their nickname is the water turkey because of their long tails
  • They use their large beaks to pull fish out of the water. First, they must return to shore to find a rock or tree branch to help dislodge the fish from their beaks.

Incredible facts about cormorants

Neotropic cormorant perched on a branch at Denman Estate Park San Antonio
Cormorants live along coasts, ponds, bays, or rivers. They are very adaptable and live near most bodies of water, from mangrove swamps to rocky northern beaches and inland pond reservoirs.

© Raul Baena /

Cormorants are found in coastal locations, and their diets consist of small fish and other aquatic animals. However, they prefer to live in inland waterways, as they cannot survive in the open sea. As a result, they build their nests on rugged rocks.

Other facts include:

  • There are approximately 42 to 45 different species of cormorant
  • It can remain underwater for long periods of time, up to one minute
  • These birds glide easily through the water because their wings are shorter than many other bird species.

12 Major Differences Between Anhinga Vs. cormorants

take a breath cormorants
2-5 eggs in clutch 3-4 eggs in clutch
short distance immigrant Medium distance migrant
The average life span is 12 years in the wild The average lifespan is 25 years in the wild
They mostly live in fresh water Mostly inhabit coastal waters.
Longer neck compared to cormorants Shorter neck compared to Anhinga.
Catching slower than cormorants It hunts faster than Anhinga
Eye-catching blue-green to red-tinted eyes Crystal blue eyes
White markings on their back No marks on their backs
Less compact than a cormorant More compact than Anhinga
Anhingas have a straight and long bill Cormorants have a curved, hooked bill
The longest tail of a cormorant Shorter tail than Anhinga
Anhingas make a loud clicking sound, just like birds of prey. Produces deep, guttural sounds

Anhinga vs. Cormorant: what are their differences?

While there are 12 key differences between Anhinga vs. Cormorants, their lifestyle and environment also differ.


Anhinga prefer to spend their days in shallow, slow-moving water, taking advantage of nearby rocks and perches to dry themselves off. However, they are rarely seen during severe droughts because they need access to water. Moreover, they are not fans of large bodies of open water but will use the shores of bays and lakes for nesting if they are easily accessible. Additionally, it occurs in colonies with other waterfowl such as ibises, gulls, egrets, cormorants, and pelicans. It also breeds in saltwater colonies but primarily sticks to freshwater.

Instead, cormorants live along coasts, ponds, bays, or rivers. They are very adaptable and live near most bodies of water, from mangrove swamps to rocky northern beaches and inland pond reservoirs. Cormorants are found throughout the United States, and build their nests over water or in trees on coastal cliffs. However, they will also build their nests on the ground at times.


Anhingas are large waterfowl with black plumage, long tails, small heads, and snake-like necks. Their eyes vary in color from red to blue, with olive-brown beaks. In addition, there are frayed silver-gray spots and feathers on their upper back and forewings which appear grizzled and mottled on the forewings and upper back. These birds are often seen swooping down on prey, similar to a hawk.

However, cormorants are small, long-tailed birds with black plumage and a bright blue colour. These birds have yellow-gray beaks, long hooked tips, and a round yellow v-shaped pouch. Moreover, they have black legs and feet. It does not pounce like a hawk, but it does flap its wings quickly when it flies over the water at high speeds.


Anhingas is large, measuring 35 inches in length, weighing about 2.7 pounds and having a wingspan of 3.7 feet. However, their heads look strange because they are so small that they resemble an extension of their snake-like neck.

The size of cormorants varies depending on the species. For example, the dwarf cormorant is 18 inches long and weighs about 12 ounces, while the flightless cormorant reaches 39 inches long and weighs about 11 pounds.

My diet

Anhinga’s diet consists of small fish and other aquatic prey such as invertebrates and crabs. They are excellent swimmers and dive below the surface of the water to catch fish around the aquatic vegetation. Moreover, they use the slightly elongated beak to pierce the sides of the fish.

However, cormorants primarily prey on fish. In North America, these birds eat, on average, a pound of fish per day. However, instead of catching one large fish, it preys on groups of smaller fish, which means it uses more energy when hunting. But fortunately, they focus on the easiest fish to catch, so they are rarely disappointed.


While Anhingas are usually solitary and nocturnal animals, they may group with herons, gulls, egrets, and storks. However, they do not socialize with other members of their own species except during the mating season. Anhingas are very territorial and protective of their nests. If a threat gets too close, they will extend their wings and crack their beaks to try to deter the intruder. However, if other waterfowl get too close, Anhingas will peck them on the chest and neck. These birds spend most of their time hunting or perched in trees when out of the water. You will often see them in the water bathing themselves with their wings outstretched. In addition, they flap their wings to bask and dry their feathers, like eagles. But once the sun starts to set, they need to get to the ground, because they lose heat quickly because they lack a layer of feathers to insulate their bodies.

On the other hand, cormorants are relatively social birds. They are found in small or large groups, both at nesting sites and during the colder months. They hunt and eat in large flocks and breed in huge colonies. Moreover, they travel in flocks. Cormorants are diurnal and spend most of the day hunting. These birds like to perch on a raised platform with their wings spread after diving or hunting to dry their feathers. However, the researchers are not sure if they spread their wings to dry their feathers, because captive cormorants that do not dive for food also extend their wings after feeding. These birds communicate through displays of touch and many calls, and males attract mates by performing a wing wave display.

Similarities: Anhinga Vs. cormorants

While there are many differences between an anhinga and a cormorant, there are also many similarities. For example, they both have long, snake-like necks and love to perch along the shores of lakes, rivers, ponds, and other bodies of water. In addition, both birds feed mainly on fish and hunt under the surface of the water for their prey. Finally, Anhingas and cormorants do not have oil glands, which is why their feathers cannot repel water. However, this is beneficial as it allows them to move more freely underwater when hunting.

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