“EMERALD EYES”: NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS ON ABACO


Neotropic Cormorant, Treasure Cay, Abaco 1 (Tom Sheley)

“EMERALD EYES”: NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS ON ABACO

Neotropic or Olivaceous Cormorants Phalacrocorax brasilianus. Smaller cousins of the familiar double-crested cormorant, and occupying a quite different range. In the northern Bahamas they are considered to be uncommon summer residents whereas the big guys are common year-round residents. However the neotropics’ range has spread in the last decade and they may become more noticeable on Abaco. Right now, Abaco is pretty much the northern boundary.

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In many ways, cormorants are taken rather for granted – ubiquitous black guardians of the coastal margins. But seen close-to, they have their glamour. This is especially true of the slimmer neotropics, with precious jewels for eyes and intricate plumage patterns that a mere fly-past cannot reveal.

Male and female neotropic cormorants: a caption contest in the making…Neotropic Cormorant, Abaco 3 (Bruce Hallett)

Neotropic Cormorant, Abaco 2 (Bruce Hallett)
Comingsbirds
Besides being smaller and lighter than the double-cresteds, these cormorants have longer tails. They are mainly fish-eaters both at sea, and inshore where ponds are to be found. They make brief dives to find food; in groups they may combine to beat the water with their wings to drive fish into the shallows where they can be picked off more easily.
Neotropic Cormorant, Abaco 1 (Bruce Hallett)
Neotropic cormorants are monogamous and breed in colonies. They build a platform of sticks a few metres above the ground or water in bushes or trees, where the eggs are laid. They produce one clutch (if that’s the right term for cormorants – maybe it’s just hens?) for the season. Here’s a fabulous photo of a double-crested cormorant nest, a similar structural arrangement, with 3 growing chicks. It was taken by JIM TODD, who uses a kayak to reach birds in less accessible places.
Double-crested cormorant nest with 3 chicks, Abaco (Jim Todd)
The eagle-eyed may have noticed that in some photos the birds seem to be standing on some kind of white pipe, as indeed they are. That is because a good bet for finding one in the summer is on the golf course pond in Treasure Cay, a most productive location for spotting water birds of many species. The pipes are to do with the watering arrangements. I think.Neotropic Cormorant, Treasure Cay, Abaco 2 (Tom Sheley)
As I have written elsewhere, “Call in at the Clubhouse for permission first. And if you hear a loud yell of ‘Fore’, it’s not someone counting birds. It’s time to duck…”
Raining? What, me worry?
Neotropic Cormorant, Treasure Cay, Abaco 1 (Tom Sheley)Neotropic Cormorant, Treasure Cay, Abaco 3 (Tom Sheley)

OPTIONAL MUSIC DIGRESSION

‘Emerald Eyes’ may ring a bell with some – and not just Eric Johnson followers either. It was the title of track #1 on the under-rated (largely ignored?) 1973 Fleetwood Mac album ‘Mystery for Me’, in many ways a turning point of a group already in rapid transition.This was their last UK-produced album, cut as the complications of a rich mixture of liquids, substances and other people’s spouses were becoming acute. Bob Welch managed to pen this rather nice song. You’ll need to turn up the volume a bit. Memory lane beckons…

Credits: Photos – Bruce Hallett, Tom Sheley, Jim Todd, Lycaon; Infographics – Allaboutbirds, Comingsbirds

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5 thoughts on ““EMERALD EYES”: NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS ON ABACO

    • Thanks! Getting increasingly interested in the colour of birds’ eyes – like an osprey’s blue. There may be a book in it for someone (“Avian Optics: Towards a Greater Understanding”), but not for me!!!!

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  1. Hey RH! These Cormorant guys as of around 1996, have been causing havoc up here on Lake Erie! There are tons of these guys up here and eating up much of our juvenile game fish

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    • Those will be double-crested not neotropic. Bigger & more voracious I expect. They can be a pest on lakes of course. In the U.K. there’s an increasing problem of inland cormorants taking rich pickings from salmon / trout rivers. Varmints!

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