Cormorant Commandos

Double-crested Cormorants (Nannopterum auritum)

If I were a foot-long fish I think I’d have a better chance of survival with the water surface full of Brown Pelicans than with these cormorants. Pelicans in paddle mode can only dip down a foot or a foot and a half or so, and even if they’re dive-bombing I think they can only reach about three feet down. Pelicans are surface birds. But some of these effing cormorants (speaking as a fish) can dive down to 150 feet, which is way more than the North Basin. They’re absolutely built for underwater hunting; they’re basically air-breathing sharks with feathers. Nobody is safe from even one or two of them. When they gang up like this, with more than a hundred on the water at once, hunting in tight bands of a dozen or two, every fish a foot long or less needs to get out of Dodge.

Watching them, it looked to me like the fish had got the message and left town. In the hundreds of dives that the birds did, I didn’t see a single one come up with something that required a bit of tossing, squeezing, and positioning before eating. Whatever they got, if anything, was so little the birds didn’t skip a heartbeat.

These all seemed to be Double-crested Cormorants, with the orange beak. Among the flocks off in the distance there may have been some Pelagic Cormorants (black beak), but too far away to know for sure.

I wonder if the cormorants were copying the pelicans in mobbing this place. Brown Pelicans, as you know if you followed this blog, came to the North Basin to forage by the hundreds in late July. See e.g. Pelican Pond July 23 2021. Were the cormorants watching? No sooner had the pelican numbers tapered off than the cormorants swarmed in (this happened first week of August). I don’t recall ever seeing so many pelicans and so many cormorants in this body of water. Some other bird numbers seem off, but not these.

Double-crested Cormorants (Nannopterum auritum)

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