Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster


Justification of Red List category
This species is classified as Near Threatened because its population is suspected to be in moderately rapid decline owing to pollution, drainage, hunting and the collection of eggs and nestlings.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number at least 22,000 mature individuals, roughly equivalent to over 33,000 individuals in total.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to be in moderately rapid decline, owing to pollution, drainage and hunting.

Distribution and population

This species occurs in Pakistan (fairly widespread but local year-round resident and irregular visitor to Sind and Punjab), India (widespread resident, current status poorly known but apparently declining, locally common in Assam, species has expanded into northern and southern Kerala in the last decade [P. Jayadevan in litt. 2016]), Nepal (uncommon resident and non-breeding visitor), Sri Lanka (common resident in dry lowlands, scarce visitor elsewhere), Bangladesh (local resident in northern and coastal regions), Myanmar (previously a widespread resident, now scarce to locally fairly common in south, status uncertain elsewhere), Thailand (formerly widespread, now very rare and possibly no longer breeds, although sightings are increasing in frequency due perhaps to increased protection of breeding colonies in Cambodia), Laos (previously widespread and numerous but numbers have plummeted with only a few sporadic recent records), Vietnam (previously widespread breeder, once locally common but now almost extinct, however, increasing numbers are now recorded in the non-breeding season), Cambodia (abundant in early 1960s with flocks reported to be totalling several thousand observed on the Mekong; currently a local resident in small numbers and still breeds on Tonle Sap Lake, where the largest colony at Prek Toal grew from 241 nests in 2002 to 6-7,000 nests in 2011 and where the number of nests has remained stable at c.6,000 nests since 2008 [Visal and Mahood 2015]), Peninsular Malaysia (vagrant in west, possibly a former resident), Malaysian Borneo (presumed resident [Mann 2008]), Singapore, Brunei (widespread in the lowlands [Mann 2008]), Indonesia (locally common breeder on Borneo, presumed resident and now mainly found inland [Mann 2008], Java and Sulawesi, vagrant to other islands in the Lesser Sundas and Moluccas, fairly locally common on Sumatra [P. van Eijk in litt. 2016]) and Timor-Leste (uncommon resident) (BirdLife International 2001). The species is generally uncommon and declining throughout Asia (Perrenou et al. 1994).


It inhabits shallow inland wetlands including lakes, rivers, swamps and reservoirs.


In common with many other Asian waterbirds, it is primarily threatened by habitat loss (both degradation of foraging areas and felling of trees used for breeding), pollution, disturbance (at feeding grounds and colonies), hunting, egg collecting and pollution.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs in a number of protected areas. At Prek Toal on the Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia, WCS initiated a scheme in 2002 that employed former egg collectors as colony guards. Together with MoE staff, they protect and monitor the colony throughout the nesting period from tree top platforms. This has caused the population to increase from 241 nests in 2002 to over 6,000 nests in 2011, doubling the world population during this time period (S. Mahood in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey to discover new colonies. Regularly monitor known colonies throughout the species's range. Ensure complete and permanent protection of all breeding congregations. Conduct awareness campaigns involving local residents to engender pride in the species and other large waterbirds and prevent hunting.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Mahood, S., Pilgrim, J., Taylor, J., Allinson, T, Ashpole, J

Mahood, S., van Eijk, P., Jayadevan, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Anhinga melanogaster. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/oriental-darter-anhinga-melanogaster on 28/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org on 28/02/2024.