Cormorants making a comeback to area

Many people have noticed an increase in the number of large, black birds on our northern lakes over the past few years.
They are cormorants, or to be more precise, Double-Crested Cormorants (Phalacrocrax auritus).
Old-timers tell us that they used to be very numerous here years ago, then they almost disappeared.
Now, they are coming back again.
These are large birds, nearly three feet in overall length. They fly with their neck stretched almost straight out in front.
Adult birds are almost entirely black, but the young have light grey on their throats and breasts.
Cormorants swim very much like loons—low in the water with their head half-erect. They dive very quickly from the swimming position, and can stay under for quite some time.
If you are close to an adult bird, you will see a fairly large naked patch on its throat and cheek, which is coloured orange.
In migrating, they fly in an irregular ‘V,’ like many of our common geese.
Cormorants have been used for fishing for a very long time. In China and other eastern countries, a ring is placed around the bird’s neck. When it catches a fish and tries to swallow it, the fish cannot get past the ring.
So the fisherman reins the cormorant back to his boat and takes the fish.
Apparently, these birds become so well-trained, and so attached to their masters, that they can be allowed to go fishing on their own. They bring the fish back to the right man in the right boat—just like a retrieving dog.
The same sort of fishing was done for sport, using trained cormorants, in England at the time of Charles I.
Cormorants nest on low rocks, rocky islands, and sometimes low trees. Nests are very poorly constructed of sticks, sea grasses, and other vegetation.
Cleanliness is not a priority with them, and a cormorant colony usually is an evil-smelling area. It often has big puddles of vile, putrid excrement all around it.
?The diet of cormorants, which you might have guessed, is fish, which they catch by swimming.
Although some people think cormorants reduce the numbers of valuable sport or eating fish, all research shows that coarse fish make up at least 75 percent of these birds’ diet.
So, in reducing the number of coarse fish, cormorants very well may be helping the populations of walleye, trout, bass, and so on.
Cormorants quite commonly stand nearly upright on rocks, buoys, and fallen logs. They also have a habit of standing with their wings spread out about halfway, although no one knows why.
This is the only inland cormorant. One of the largest colonies ever recorded was on Lake Winnipeg, where a small rocky island contained about 2,000 nests.
This bird is a rather curious relic of the Pleistocene Age, a million or so years ago.
He has been around a lot longer than we have.

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