Sunday, March 3, 2013


The Cormorant: An Unusual Bird

Yesterday I noticed a cormorant perched on a culvert 
near a small lake a few blocks from our house.
I've seen cormorants there on occasion, 
but the lake is usually home only to Canadian geese, 
 a duck or two, and an occasional heron or egret.
I realized I knew very little about cormorants
so I decided to see what I could find out.
My, my. These sleek dark ebony water birds are quite the characters.

photo courtesy of

I found a 2010 article titled
 "Double-crested Cormorant can be seen throughout the Chesapeake Bay,"
written by George Mathews, Jr., Curatorial Director of the Virginia Living Museum.
 The article appeared in the Daily Press newspaper.
Mr. Mathews described a side of cormorants that few know.
The first of Mathews' interesting facts
is that cormorants do not have those oily feathers 
that allow water to "roll off their backs"
as happens with geese and ducks.
The cormorant has to dry itself off the old-fashioned way--
by sitting in the sun, often with their wings spread.

Photo courtesy of

Another thing I learned from the Mathews article 
is that cormorants are related to pelicans, which I didn't know.
And that cormorants can dive more than 20 feet deep
in their pursuit of a fish dinner.
Of course, those things are not that remarkable for a water-going bird.
But what is rather peculiar is how the cormorant builds its nest.
Mathews says that they create nests using 
"rope, seaweed, deflated balloons, fishnet, plastic debris"
and hold on for this one ... "parts of dead birds."
Not exactly home sweet home, 
but I try not to judge how others choose to feather their nests.

photo courtesy of

Nest building idiosyncrasies aside, 
I learned one more thing
--better sit down for this one.
How does a cormorant defend itself 
from natural predators like raccoons, for example?
Mathews says the cormorant vomits fish into the face of those who get too close.
Okay, now I'm judging them.
I'll never take them for granted again.
And I definitely won't get too close.

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