Thursday, June 30, 2011

Double Crested Cormorant

Another trip to Bayfront Park...

The Double Crested Cormorant is common in Hamilton Harbour and Cootes Paradise, though usually quiet shy of people.  It's a large waterbird which is found along large rivers, lakes and shorelines.  The bird sits very low in the water, often with only it's neck above water.  It swims quickly, diving and moving with it's webbed feet and large tail to manouvre to chase and catch fish that tend to be in schools.  The bird's name comes from two white tufts of feathers they get on their crowns when they are breeding.

You can see if you zoom in, the hook at the tip of its beak to capture and get a good hold on the fish.

Double Crested Cormorant
Their feathers are not waterproof as most other waterbird's are.  This is why they sun them selves in that characteristic, wings spread wide pose to catch the sun, and dry out.

Lunch caught
If you download the picture below and then scan across, you'll see a sequence of the cormorant carefully adjusting the fish in its bill while it's madly flopping away, then down the hatch it goes.  Must a strange feeling for a bit while that fish still keeps moving down there in the stomach!  They regurgitate pellets which gets rid of the bones and other parts they can't digest.

A sequence of adjusting the fish to go down head first, then swallow...

Cormorants were affected both by deliberate targeting by fisherman who thought they were threatening their livelihood, and by DDT in 1960s.  They have recovered well.  Compared to the popular loon, they are often ignored because of their plainer, darker colours, and lack of an attractive call - they mostly grunt and squawk.  However, they too were created with amazing abilities to efficiently hunt and catch food underwater, holding their breath for over a minute while diving and swimming hard at the same time.

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