Darter at Sturt Reserve, Murray Bridge

Sturt Reserve, Murray Bridge, South Australia

Over the last few days I have been sharing some of the photos I took several weeks ago when I took time out from my busy schedule to do some birding. Despite being a chilly winter’s day, the conditions were quite acceptable and it was good to feel some sunshine after all the dull wet weather we’ve had so far this year.

One of the birds I enjoy seeing most times along the Murray River here in Murray Bridge is the Darter, shown in the photos below. One has to be quick to see this species in the water when it’s fishing. It dives quickly and often stays under water for a considerable length of time. After every period of feeding, every Darter and every cormorant needs to find a suitable perch and “hang out the washing”, that is, they need to dry their wings before they become waterlogged and drown.

I was able to approach this individual to within five metres as it perched there. Interestingly, this one appears to be an immature female, going by the plumage.

Darter at Sturt Reserve, Murray Bridge

Darter at Sturt Reserve, Murray Bridge


Birds along the Murrumbidgee River, Balranald

Darter, Balranald, NSW

Sydney Trip June 2011

On our journey home from visiting family in Sydney earlier this year we stopped for a lunch break at Balranald in far western NSW. After a few minutes in the local tourist information centre we drove down to the picnic area on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River (see photo below). While having lunch I made a modest list of birds seen and managed several interesting photos.

The Darter (shown above) was drying its wings after swimming in the river. This species is widespread along our waterways in Australia without being in large numbers anywhere. White-faced Herons, like the one shown below, are both widespread and common. This one looked like it wasn’t enjoying the cold weather. It seemed to be huddling up and trying to warm up in the weak sunshine.

White-faced Heron, Balranald, NSW

Murrumbidgee River, Balranald


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.