Darter, Cleland Wildlife Park

Darter, Cleland Wildlife Park

I took this photo several months ago at the Cleland Wildlife Park in the Adelaide Hills. The Darter is an interesting bird, widespread over much of Australia without being common anywhere. It is occasionally found in Tasmania and New Zealand. It is also present in Africa, southern Asia and Papua New Guinea.

Snake Bird

Another common name for the Darter is Snake Bird. If one approaches one sitting on a log or branch it will writhe its neck in a snake like manner. Like cormorants, the Darter needs to regularly leave the water and sit on a log, rock, branch or navigation piles in order to dry its wings. The one in the photograph above was sitting on a log on the side of the path, only two metres from me. Being a captive bird it was very used to having people quite close.

Habitat preferences:

The Darter can be found in or along rivers, creeks, lakes, swamps, lagoons, reservoirs and estuaries but rarely in open sea. It can be found in both salt and fresh water. In my home district it is found right along the River Murray and although widespread it is present in only small numbers, usually one or two.

For more information:

  • Birds in Backyards – facts about the Darter.
  • Australia Zoo – look for the down loadable PDF file on this species.


12 Responses to “Darter”

  1. Snail says:

    Aren’t they magnificent? I used to see them all the time when I lived in Townsville.

  2. Trevor says:

    I agree with you. I love seeing these curious looking birds along the river near home. On the other hand, I’ve never really warmed to their cousins, the cormorants.

  3. Duncan says:

    Nice photo. I love the way they submerge without even a ripple.

  4. Trevor says:

    Thanks Duncan. I think the darter is one of the more elegant birds resident in our country.

  5. Taylor says:

    Hi I’m a year 6 student from Bertram Primary school.I have an assignment on the Darter and was wondering if you could tell me about This Bird

  6. Trevor says:

    Hi there Taylor,

    Thanks for your enquiry.

    You can find more information about the darter here:


    There is also more information here:


    Alongside the photo there is an information sheet you can download.

    Try also in your local library – even your school library should have information.

  7. I got a photo of one of these today and didn’t know what it was. A search helped me find your post here – thanks for the info.

  8. Trevor says:

    Pleased I could be of help, Kathie.

  9. Judy Mitchell says:

    I often watch and photograph the Darter on the rocks near Balmoral Beach, Sydney. Today’s photos taken when he had just come out of the water are showing distinct blue coloured feathers around the chest area. I haven’t noticed these before, and I can’t find any references to blue plumage anywhere. This is a male with distinct rust coloured plumage on his neck. Do you have any ideas? I thought he might have come in contact with some blue paint, but can’t imagine where that would come from. Any ideas?

    • Trevor says:

      HI Judy,

      Sorry about the delay in replying – I’m on holiday in Sydney playing with my grand children. Fun times.

      I’m not sure what is causing the blue colour. I don’t have my reference books with me so I can’t check up on this. An internet search turns up nothing either – though one of the other species of Darter has a blue face patch of skin during breeding, but that’s not what you are describing.

      Quite puzzling.

  10. JUdy Mitchell says:

    I took more photos of the Darter yesterday – he had just come out of the water, and feathers still quite wet. Two of the photos show the tail and wing feathers looking very blue! Must be the reflective light coming off the feathers in certain light conditions. Beautiful!

    • Trevor says:

      Hi again.

      That could explain the colour you are seeing. Light can play interesting – and very confusing – tricks with us at times. It sometimes makes identification difficult.

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