“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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