Mass fishing by Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis at lake Ijsselmeer, The Netherlands: A recent and successful adaptation to a turbid environment.

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) Science Article 20


The habit of mass fishing by Cormorants at lake IJsselmeer, The Netherlands, is a recent phenomenon. During the first half of the 1970s the birds changed behaviour probably as a result of the deteriorating under water visibility in the take (3-4 m water depth). The behavioural switch coincided with years of high numbers of Smelt Osmerus eperlanus and Ruffe Gymnocephalus cernuus present in the southeastern part of take Markermeer, the birds’ main fishing area at that time. Social fishing by Cormorants is directed towards the catch of relatively small, pelagically dwelling fish. It is argued that for a large water system where social fishing is the rule, a minimum colony size of c. 1000 pairs is required. Typically each colony had one socially fishing group (4000-5000 birds) that slowly changed position through the course of the day. Depending on the direction of the wind the flock’s position could greatly change between days. Hunting speed was measured and coincided with maximum swimming speed of medium sized fish prey (15-25 cm).

Van Eerden M.R. & Voslamber B., ARDEA 83 (1): 199-212

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