Thursday, May 22, 2008

Double-crested Cormorants

Burlington Bay, Lake Ontario

If the Trumpeter Swan is a white angel water bird, the Double-crested Cormorant has become the black demon of the Great Lakes. Both birds were present in Burlington Bay and they mingled together near the shoreline. I have watched large numbers of Cormorants on Lake Manitou on Manitoulin Island as they group together on rocky shoals and then take off into the air in a long line. I counted 100 birds flying up from the water together one afternoon last summer.

Fishermen on the Great Lakes dislike these birds for their perceived impact on commercial and sports fishing, especially since their numbers have increased dramatically in the past decade or two. Their population was almost wiped out in the middle of the last century due to the effect of DDT on their eggs, just as the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon populations were affected.

As the Great Lakes have been cleaned up these birds have increased greatly in number. The details of their decline and resurgence is described on this Environment Canada web page. I had a very close view of a Cormorant as it dove and fished close to the shore of Burlington Bay.

At times I have confused them with Loons from a distance because they sit low in the water. Like Loons, they dive for fish and may come out of the water many metres from the spot they went underwater.

Cormorants at Columbia Lake, Waterloo ON

Cormorants are also present in ponds and rivers in our region. There is a small "lake" by our local university that is really a reservoir for a creek. It is a great area for birding and when I went there early in the morning last week, several Cormorants were perched in the trees.

I still find it odd to see water birds high in the trees whether they are Wood Ducks, Great Blue Herons or Double-crested Cormorants. Three of them flew off as I watched and they landed in the water to begin their day of feeding. Perhaps Cormorants are in the same class as Canada Geese and Brown-headed Cowbirds, birds with appearances and habits that are not particularly endearing, but interesting nevertheless.


  1. Anonymous8:51 am GMT-4

    Ruth, lovely pictures of the cormorants. I enjoyed this post. I used to see cormorants all the time when I lived in Florida. I always liked them. I think there are too many fishermen!

  2. Ruth,

    A great post about the cormorants,so interesting and informative. I followed your link to the Environment Canada website. The information there is plentiful. Thanks for the link.

    I enjoyed visiting with you this morning and hope you have a wonderful day.


  3. Anonymous9:21 am GMT-4

    Those are such lovely birds. They are a lot of fun to watch as they always seem to be diving for food. Nice post.

  4. We have neotropic cormorants here on the Gulf Coast. They are similar to yours in appearance and are equally reviled by fishermen.

  5. They may be called black demons, but I just love to watch them in their deep dives. I could easily spend a day watching them do the same things over and over again.

    Good information and great pictures.

  6. At our Point Pelee Trip we saw Double-crested Cormorants too.

  7. It is odd to see these, and other water birds, up in the trees. I've never seen the cormorants, so I don't have an opinion in terms of their peskiness. They look quite regal and harmless. :c)

  8. Anonymous6:10 pm GMT-4

    I have always wanted to see a cormorant, but never have. I'll keep looking!

  9. Anonymous7:46 pm GMT-4

    Cormorants are interesting birds to find! I know many times I see them in the lake which always give me the "is that a loon" but just ends up being a Cormorant! Great photos!

  10. Ruth, you take amazing pictures.
    A couple of years ago my husband and I took a boat tour around Midland. Along the way there was some cormorants in the water. I decided to play hide and go seek with them. I, of course, was always "it". After they dove under the water I had to figure out where they would pop back up. Needless to say, they always won!

  11. Laura- Thanks. Fishermen I know are quite competitive and the Cormorants compete with them. ;-)

    Mary- Yes, the website does clear up some misconceptions I have heard.

    SG88- I enjoyed watching the bird I took pictures of. It was fun trying to anticipate where it would come out of the water.

    Bunnygirl- Interesting...they are unpopular wherever they go.

    NCMW- It doesn't help that they are not pretty and they are rather smelly. But they are graceful.

    Birdman- Lake Erie is supposed to have lots of Cormorants. This is the first time I have seen them up close.

    Jayne- They are quite sociable among themselves and were not aggressive with the other birds in the bay. I find geese more annoying.

    Jan- I was surprised to see them in town. They are more common on larger bodies of water.

    Monarch- I am relieved that I am not the only one that has confused them with Loons.

    Hi Cheryl- They certainly swim deep and can come up far from where they started. I took many dud pictures of this bird as it dove and emerged so quickly from the water. Thank goodness for digital cameras with big memory cards!

  12. Ah, yes, cormorants - opportunists, aren't they? I hope to see some this weekend. Have a great weekend, Ruth.

  13. It always seems that birds that are endangered automaticaly qualiy as desirable birds but if those same birds populate too much they are a nuiscance.-The poor birds can't win! There have been complaints over problems that cormorants have cause around here as well.-Like you, I have confused loons with cormorants when viewed from a distance. They are interesting birds to watch.

  14. Mary- Humans are also opportunistic. I guess we don't like birds like ourselves.

    Larry- Last year I posted a blurry picture I thought was a loon and you were the one who ID'd it as a Cormorant. It is getting easier for me to see the difference.

  15. Anonymous8:00 am GMT-4

    So THAT'S where our comorants went! They were here on Chautauqua Lake a few weeks ago...


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