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.
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.