Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Persecuted Cormorant

Over the last few weeks, I seem to have photographed a considerable number of Cormorants. Without exception they have been Black-faced and Little Pieds, at least until earlier this week. While walking along the Howrah coast, I came upon a group of roosting birds, including this one and only Great Cormorant. Surprisingly, this is the first one that I have been able to approach close enough to photograph. Looking at the images on the computer, I was struck by the face colours, I obviously hadn't taken much notice before, probably dismissing these cormorants, as not particularly worthy of further inspection.
The Great, Black or Common--it seems to have had several names over the years--seems to bring out the worst in some people, from my observations over the years. They are regularly shot at, and their nests destroyed, even I might say, in National Parks ( I have witnessed fishermen doing this). But this persecution is not new. In John Gould's "Birds of Australia", published in 1865, he comments: "I killed several while
perched on the high gum-trees"... and goes on "It is, however, so shy and wary that it is difficult to get within shot of it". I guess at least he was (I assume) collecting for science! At times, large numbers (hundreds) descend on the Derwent Estuary. It is generally believed these birds emanate from the Mainland, sometimes starting calls for a bounty on them to be introduced. Investigations have shown that Great Cormorants feed on a wide variety of aquatic vertebrates and do little damage to fisheries, but long held beliefs will take a long time to change.


Matthew said...

I don't think I had ever looked at Great Cormorants that closely either - or was it just because I never got especially close to them!? The green eye is quite striking also.

I wouldn't exactly call them attractive birds but they don't deserve the treatment they get.

Anonymous said...

I usually find most cormorants very wary. I wonder whether this one was ill, to allow you to get so close.

BirdingTas said...

It does look a bit jaundiced round the gills! I think as it was with other birds, mostly cormorants, it may have had some sense of security. Generally, on the rocks, Black-faced and Little Pieds are approachable (locally). Had a flock of 20 Sooty Oystercatchers on our rocks, yesterday. Largest flock so far this year.