Double-crested “Conductor”

Double-creasted Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) at the mouth of the Damariscotta River.

This Double-crested Cormorant looked to me as if he were conducting the sea in a musical performance, perhaps the finale to the 1812 Overture?  I had always believed this spread eagle behavior meant he was just drying his wings after a round of diving for fish.  I was told years ago that Cormorants do not have the oil gland (Uropygial Gland) that most birds use when they preen their feathers, but in fact necropsy has shown that Cormorants do have this gland.  Richard King in his book “The Devil’s Cormorant, A Natural History” claims that this behavior is due to the Cormorant’s unique feather structure.  He cites a study by A.M. Rijke of the University of Capetown which says that the Cormorants benefit from their feather structure which allows their feathers to get wet.  Their feathers do not trap air and are less buoyant enabling them to dive deeper and faster.  They face into the wind when they do this, presumably to allow their wings to dry faster.


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Marjorie said,

    Fascinating information about the cormorant. I, too, thought they lacked the oil gland and thus had to dry their wings.

    I loved your “conductor directing the sea” approach. Charming!


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