Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Double-crested Cormorant

The often maligned Double-crested Cormorant is, never-the-less, a handsome bird. The photo was taken several years ago at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern South Dakota. All four toes are webbed, making the cormorants systematically allied (at least traditionally) with the pelicans in the order Pelicaniformes.

Cormorants are often accused of taking excessive numbers of gamefish. Add to that accusation great increases in cormorant numbers, and you have the ingredients for political (i.e. state's rights) debates. Cormorants are opportunistic feeders--they take whatever fish are most abundant and easily caught. These fish are rarely top of the food chain species prized by fishermen. Only when gamefish are stocked and abundant do they constitute a large percentage of a cormorant's diet. Although cormorants are protected species and their economic affects on fisheries are not precisely known, permits have been issued in a few states to cull their numbers (Hatch and Weselch 1999).

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