Thursday, March 18, 2010

Strange birds

I walk almost every day at Howarth Park, a city park at the edge of Santa Rosa, California. I escape the more heavily populated trails as soon as I can and walk on trails where there are less humans and more nature, but at the end of every walk I have to take the main paved trail for a few hundred feet to get back to my car in the parking lot. That trail runs along the edge of Lake Ralphine and is usually so full of people, dogs, park vehicles and such, that I try to move along as quickly as I can.

I've certainly noticed the double-crested cormorants that roost in a tree over the water but, until today, I was too anxious to avoid the crowds to really pay attention to them. Since I've been learning to sketch birds I thought the cormorants would be good beginner's birds, since they tend to perch on a branch and just hang
I found a nice little hill to sit on, above the busy trail and sketched for about an hour. As I was getting ready to leave I heard some strange guttural sounds and looked up to see that a lovely white-crested cormorant had landed precariously next to one of the black-crested birds in the tree. The black-crested bird was making the sounds I'd heard. The two birds began to move about in a
decidedly awkward dance -- cormorants aren't very graceful out of the water -- while the black-crested bird continued to vocalize. After a while they moved closer together and rubbed heads and necks together for a while until white-crest flew off, only to return again in a few moments for a bit more dancing, and then off again. White-crest was last seen swimming along with a small group of black-crested birds, while the dance partner in the tree settled back down to some preening and hanging out.
Double-crested cormorants had all but disappeared until the 1970's when DDT and PCB's were banned from use. Now the birds are so numerous that many humans who fish consider them pests.

Here are some interesting articles for further reading about these fascinating birds:

The Cormorant: The Devil Undisguised?; Dr. Tom Kazo, Ph.D. and Donna McVicar Cannon Kazo.
Double-crested Cormorant; Wikipedia.
Great Lakes Fact Sheet; The Rise of the Double-crested Cormorant on the Great Lakes: Winning the War Against Contaminants.


  1. Great sketches and facts about these interesting birds!

  2. These are wonderful sketches, Debbie. What a treasure to witness their behavior and sounds. Great info!

  3. Lots of movement in these beautiful sketches Debbie! I just love watching our Cormorants sitting with wings spread out to dry after a fishing expedition - they sometimes 'hang out' like that for hours!

  4. So glad you took time to sketch and observe, Debbie! Cormorants are fascinating...I'm astounded at how long they can stay underwater. Great job!

  5. it's beautiful phalacrocorax, like this.


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