Photo: Dr. A.K Mukherjee

KEOLDEAO NATIONAL PARK, RAJASTHAN, INDIA.

See that snake like neck of the Oriental Darter.

Perched on a stunted tree stub after a recent underwater hunt, an Oriental Darter stretches out its wings to dry, under a weak winter sun in Keoldeao National Park. Nicknamed the snake bird on account of a long curvy neck that resembles a snake, the Darter is a master hunter and a brave adversary known to stand its ground against larger predators than taking flight.

As one of the many species of water birds, it spends nearly all its life submerged in ponds and lakes spearing up fish and small amphibians with its sharp pointed beak then tossing them up in the air and swallowing them whole. Hunts, however, are not without hazards. Prolonged submersion, makes the feathers soggy and heavy restricting reflexes and speed in take-off. Faced with global habitat loss and growing predation by humans, the bird now has more to worry about than water pythons and crocodiles lurking in the water it hunts in.