Yesterday, I shared photos of “A Bald Eagle’s Successful Catch” that I took at Charleston Lake in Charleston, Arkansas. In that blog post from Tuesday, December 26, I mentioned that I was photographing a Double-crested Cormorant. Today, Wednesday, December 27, I am sharing a photo of that bird just as it comes to the surface of the lake with a fish.

Double-crested Cormorant Catching Fish

Double-crested Cormorant Catching A Fish

To capture these birds and the Bald Eagles, I usually park my truck parallel to the lake and near the dam where most of the action takes place. I arrive a few minutes before sunrise and wait for the birds to arrive shortly after. The Double-crested Cormorants circle over the lake near the dam before landing toward the middle of the lake. They seem to do this to ensure everything is safe for them to land and that my truck is not a threat. Then, these birds will swim and dive, heading towards the dam.

Double-crested Cormorants are skilled underwater hunters, employing several impressive techniques to catch their fishy prey:

Diving and Propulsion:

  • Expert divers: They can plunge over 100 feet deep and stay submerged for 2-3 minutes, propelled by their powerful webbed feet that act like flippers.
  • Streamlined bodies: Their sleek, torpedo-shaped bodies minimize water resistance, allowing them to move through the water swiftly and silently.

Targeting Prey:

  • Sharp eyesight: Cormorants have excellent underwater vision, helping them spot potential prey even in dimly lit waters.
  • Hunting strategies: They may dive after individual fish, chase schools of smaller fish, or even employ cooperative hunting strategies. Some reports suggest they might work together to drive fish into shallow areas for easier capture.

Catching and Handling:

  • Hooked bill: Their sharp, hooked beak helps them snag and secure slippery fish.
  • Flexible throat: Their expandable throats allow them to swallow prey much larger than their heads.
  • Maneuvering: They may twist and turn underwater to maneuver fish into a headfirst position, making them easier to swallow.

Additional Adaptations:

  • Feather structure: Their dense, oily feathers lack insulating down, which improves underwater agility but requires them to spread their wings to dry after diving.
  • Enhanced vision: A membrane called the nictitating membrane protects their eyes underwater while still allowing them to see.

These features combined make Double-crested Cormorants formidable underwater predators, adept at catching a variety of fish species in different aquatic environments.

Here are some additional resources you might find interesting:

Image Information:

  • Date: 12/12/23
  • Time: 09:15 AM
  • Camera: Canon EOS R5
  • Lens: Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM
  • ISO: 1600
  • Aperture: 7.1
  • Shutter: 1/2500
  • Exp. Comp.: -1.0
  • Lens (mm): 500
  • Program Mode: Manual