Great Cormorant, Bird of the Week XIII

Great cormorants (Phalacrorax carbo) can be found in every continent except South America and Antarctica. So I was not surprised to see one in the middle of Tokyo, in the birding hotspot of Shinobazu pond. There were several flying over the pond, but only one settled in full view in the middle of the pond. I examined it through my monster zoom, hoping that it was the Japanese cormorant, which I haven’t seen. But it was my auld acquantance, P. carbo. Interestingly, this is near the easternmost limit of the bird. It doesn’t cross large stretches of open water, so it isn’t found in the west coast of North America. Strangely, the route across the Bering strait is not taken, although it has hopped from northern Europe to Iceland, Greenland, and the east coast of North America, establishing breeding colonies in each of these places.

While I used the monster, The Family was trying to use her phone to get shots of the bird. It worked fairly well; she got an action shot of it flapping its wings dry. I’ve often wondered why a water bird like this has wettable wings. It seems that others have too. I found a paper which describes the paradox neatly: “Great cormorants should be constrained by water temperature. Surprisingly, it has the widest breeding distribution of all diving birds, and does not require more food.” The reason, as the paper finds, is that each feather has an outer part which wets instantly, and a core which remains waterproof. The air trapped in the core keeps the bird warm. The wettable outer part reduces its buoyancy, allowing it to sink faster when it dives.

An invitation

There aren’t many places on WordPress where bird watchers can share posts. If you post any photos of birds this week (starting today and up to next Monday), it would be great if you could leave a link in the comments, or a pingback, for others to follow. There is no compulsion to post a recent photo, but it would help others to know when and where you saw the bird. You might consider using the tag “Bird of the Week” in case people search for old posts using it. I hope you’ve had the time to look at what others have added this week and in the previous weeks.


By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


    1. Thank you for joining in with your wonderful raptor photos.

      Is that a screech owl? And I wonder which of the north American eagles that is. Unfortunately, I can’t help you with the identification, but the Merlin app that you can get for your phone is very good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! I’m pretty sure it’s a Great Horned Owl. The wind is blowing his horns back. They take shelter from the summer heat in my front yard. I have a pair that hangs out here. The hawk is most likely a Red-Tailed hawk because I have tons of those and Cooper’s Hawks around here. He was the biggest one that I’ve seen.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for joining in with these great photos of a magnificent bird in its breeding plumage.

      Interesting to hear about the pelicans. Perhaps they are beginning to range further north like a lot of other species across the northern hemisphere.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our pelicans were probably originally from further south, but they are strong flyers. When the air is warm and it is definitely warmer up here than it was a few years ago, we seem to be getting a lot of birds that never came this far north. Pelicans will will range as far north as Maine and coastal Canada. We will often see brown pelicans and sometimes white pelicans and occasionally others. I think they are establishing breeding areas too.

        The Great Blue Herons were east coast but with their 7 foot wingspans, they can make some serious distance on a few wing flaps. Those heros breed all over this area, especially right here in the Blackstone Valley. They nest in trees. Big birds. Usually near a river or other body of water where fish are found.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I used to work in an office that was located on the edge of a city park. Within the park was a pond with an island in the middle with some trees on it. During the spring and summer, the cormorants nested on the little island. I loved watching them dive – they stay underwater for so long. When they left in the fall, great white egrets would take over the island until the weather turned too cold for them to stay. I’m not a bird watcher in the fundamental sense, but I do enjoy watching them in their habitats.

    Liked by 1 person

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