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Archive for November 28, 2012

Great Cormorant

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Recently a young, coastal, avian visitor strayed inland — the Great Cormorant, largest of all six species of cormorants in North America. It has the widest range of all the cormorants, breeding in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, as well as North America. Typically Great Cormorants overwinter along the eastern U.S. and Canadian coasts (and breed from Maine north to western Greenland), but this juvenile bird somehow ended up in central Vermont. It is often confused with its close relative, the Double-crested Cormorant, but it is considerably larger, has a heavier bill and there are subtle plumage differences.  In China (mostly for tourism these days) they actually capitalize on the Great Cormorant’s ability to catch large fish by using it to catch fish commercially.  A snare of some sort is tied around the bottom of the cormorant’s neck, allowing it to eat small fish that it catches, but preventing it from swallowing any large fish.  After the cormorant catches a sizeable fish, it is brought back to the boat and spits up the fish that is in its throat.