Darter at Tailem Bend

I recently had a short break for a cuppa on the banks of the River Murray in Tailem Bend, about a twenty minute drive from home in Murray Bridge. While we enjoyed the bright sunshine we were entertained by the passing parade of birds. About 300 Silver Gulls were resting on the lawn area near us. On the river we saw Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants as well as a number of Pacific Black Ducks and Eurasian Coots. A single Australian Pelican could be seen just north of the Ferry crossing the river.


In the water nearby I observed a Darter, with another one drying its wings on a tree on the river bank. The Darter, also called a Snake Bird, is widespread throughout Australia. It is my observation that it is not common anywhere. I have rarely seen more than two at a time. Its alternative common name, Snake Bird, comes from its appearance when fishing in the water. Unlike many other water birds, the Darter’s body is mostly submerged when it is swimming. With its long, snake-like neck poking above the water as it comes up to breathe, it looks, at first glance, just like a snake swimming along on the surface of the water.

Wing Drying

Like the cormorant family of birds, the Darter must emerge from the water from time to time in order to dry its feathers which are not water resistant. On the occasions when I have been able to approach a Darter drying its wings I have noticed that it waves its long neck around in the manner of a snake. This could be another reason for its other common name.

Other Birds

I also observed a range of other birds in the time we had our picnic. Quite a few Straw-Necked Ibis were feeding on a freshly ploughed paddock directly opposite where we sat. Spotted Turtledoves cooed in the trees nearby and several Magpie-Larks paraded up and down the lawn area near our picnic table. Welcome Swallows constantly swooped low over the water and several Blackbirds searched for tasty morsels in the nearby bushes. I heard the tinkling calls of the Superb Blue Wren in the bushes too, but they didn’t emerge to show off their brilliant colours.


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