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Cormorants A-Poppin'

Thursday, January 7, 2016

In eastern North America, we're a bit cormorant-poor. Well, we have a LOT of cormorants, but the one we usually see is double-crested. Along the East Coast, great cormorants have made a beachhead from Europe. What a fine, huge bird that is. And in Texas and the Southwest, we can see Neotropic cormorant, a small rather delicate bird.

But diversity isn't so high until you hit the Pacific Coast, and then there are lots of fabulous cormorants. Same is true in South Africa. Visiting Stony Point was not just about penguins. For a big colony comprised mostly of Cape cormorants crowns the point, building stick nests on large boulders and outcrops. 

Here in Betty's Bay, South Africa, there were four species of cormorant for the looking.

It was a huge treat to see Cape cormorants scrounging for nesting material amidst the beleaguered vegetation on Stony Point. 

They're such glossy, beautiful birds, and a bit ungainly on land, with their totipalmate feet. Totipalmate means the webbing includes the three forward toes and the hind toe as well. 

It makes for some slip-slappy walking. Honestly, this bird is designed for water. Those legs! 

If I lived nearby,  I would rake up all kinds of stuff and bring offerings to the nest-material starved cormorants here, so they wouldn't have to go around tugging and tearing at the living plants on the Point. Poor things. They need a nice rasher of straw!

At first glance, it's confusing to look at a mixed cormorant colony. But soon, differences in the species begin to make themselves clear. In this photo above, we have mostly glossy black Capes with their red gular skin, but there are also some of the much larger and browner white-breasted cormorants mixed in. 

And in the photo below, a pair of rare bank cormorants occupies the top left of the photo--the displaying, yawping birds. We identified them by their steep foreheads and their size (larger than Capes). I believe the bird to the extreme right is also a bank cormorant.

In this photo below, the white-breasted cormorant in the center sticks out like a sore thumb--after you learn to look for it.

Sulking alone on a rock ledge was a crowned cormorant, so called for its little cowlick. It's a bunch smaller than the others, too. 

Also alone was a drowsy kelp gull, the species that has been such a celebrity in the Cleveland area this winter. How one found its way all the way to Ohio is anyone's guess. How this Ohio girl found her way all the way to South Africa is, too.

Meanwhile, a black-footed penguin fed its two fat, beautiful, molting young.  Gaaaag! May they all raise two young each year, forever and ever.

Next, we'd do a little botanizing and dickie-birding. Ready? Me too!


Thanks! We are going to Cape Point, Boulders Beach and Table Mountain in April. Not sure if we'll make it here. Thanks for sharing!


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