Solitary foraging in sand pits by breeding Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis: Does specialised knowledge about fishing sites and fish behaviour pay off?

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) Science Article 19


Though most Cormorants from the colonies exploiting the lake IJsselmeer area in The Netherlands nowadays have taken up the habit of fishing in large groups, some individuals are still observed fishing solitarily. This phenomenon occurs predominantly during the coldest months at well-defined patches, often located in sand pit regions. A case study in a sand pit in the early spring of 1982 revealed that Cormorants from Oostvaardersplassen took advantage of the fish located at their winter refuges inside the pit by specifically diving along the pit’s steepest slopes. Thus, they were able to achieve a more than average daily ration of about 475 g of fish within a mere 15 minutes of foraging in the second half of March. Later on, the site became less profitable and the birds gradually left. The importance of high intake rates in early spring is stressed, in view of time consuming activities like nest site occupation, pair formation and accumulation of body reserves for egg-laying, incubation and chick feeding. It is suggested that only the ‘higher quality’ birds may have the experience and skill required to use solitarv fishing techniques as a profitable alternative to social fishing in early spring.

Voslamber B., Platteeuw M. & Van Eerden M.R., ARDEA 83 (1): 213-222

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