Cormorants

Cormorants

We were lucky today and found this group of Cormorants resting on a piece of ice in a flooded field at the Mactaquac Fish Hatchery.

cormorants

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The cormorant, belonging to the Phalacrocoracidae family, is characterized by mainly black plumage, a curved bill that is laterally compressed, vibrant, bare skin on the throat, and distinctively stiff tail feathers. These birds are highly adapted for aquatic life, evident in their fully webbed toes, making them somewhat clumsy on land. Cormorants typically adopt an upright posture when perching or standing.

There are 37 species globally, with four found in Canada, three of which inhabit marine environments. The great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo, 2.4-5.3 kg) breeds along the Gulf of St Lawrence and the East Coast. Brandt’s cormorant (P. penicillatus, about 2.1 kg) dwells in brackish to nearshore waters around Vancouver Island. The pelagic cormorant (P. pelagicus, 1.6-2.7 kg), the smallest and most marine-adapted species in Canada, nests on cliffs along the BC coast, often wintering in the open sea. The double-crested cormorant (P. auritus, 1.7-3.5 kg) resides across much of southern Canada in freshwater lakes, brackish waters, and marine islands.

Cormorants build their nests on islands, cliffs, or in trees. They are vulnerable to disturbances while nesting.

Cormorants predominantly eat fish. They hunt in groups and capture their prey by diving from the water surface. Often, swimming birds form a semicircle to corral their prey. Capable of diving up to 37 meters, cormorants likely use both their wings and feet for underwater propulsion. Despite mostly consuming coarse fish, cormorants have been criticized for depleting economic fish stocks.

Double-crested cormorant populations, previously affected by habitat loss due to factors such as the 1930s drought and pesticide use, have seen considerable growth in recent years. Their populations are now regulated in certain areas within their range in eastern Canada.

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