The cormorant wasn’t as confusing to me growing up as the coney, but I didn’t get a clear picture of what kind of bird the Bible was talking about for a long time. That is, until I went out to Key West and learned a thing or two about Chinese fishermen!
One Summer my family was in Florida on vacation and my mom decided to drive us out to Key West before heading home. It is an amazing experience if you ever have a chance to get there. You can feel how small our home on dry land is without having to put on a life vest.
Along side the bridges hopping from island to island stood tall power lines stretching out on the south side. Many of these cables were being used as resting places for large black birds. Some of them held their wings out to the side, sunning themselves? I didn’t know just what they were doing.
On the same trip, I learned about the ancient fishing technique from eastern Asia of using diving birds to catch fish. These dark birds had rings fastened around their necks to keep them from swallowing large fish, which they were sent out to catch. When the bird caught one, it would return to the fisherman who would pull the fish out and give it a chopped fish reward. Sounded like good teamwork to me!
It was only later I realized these birds were the same kind, the cormorant from the Bible. How exciting to know what I had seen in North America and the videos of people in the Far East were things we had in common with Moses & Co.
There are some great websites where you can learn all kinds of details about the cormorant family. I’m just going to mention the coolest and send you on to learn more:
- All the “detestable” birds God warned the Israelites not to eat are meat eaters. The cormorant only eats fish and eels.
- The cormorant doesn’t make
enough oil to keep its feathers water proof. This is a good thing when diving deep underwater, but that’s why it spreads its wings to dry afterwards. It’s hard to fly with sopping feathers!
- Varieties of cormorant are found everywhere with lots of fish around the world except mid-Pacific islands. There are some who winter in Florida and come up to northern Michigan, Canada, and over to the Dakotas to hang around the large (and Great) lakes up here.
- Being so far from the ocean tells us they don’t care about salt or fresh water. They just care about fish! In fact, scientists are pretty sure they’ve done extra well since the alewives swam up the Welland Canal from Lake Ontario.
- When there isn’t a convenient cliff, lighthouse, or sheltered pile of rocks to nest in, cormorants roost in trees. Unfortunately, their droppings are so rich and acidic, it kills the trees.
- Cormorants are hard to sort neatly into species; partly because they only have fancier colors and feathers when it’s time to attract the ladies. Some of them near the bottom of the world have more varieties of color (like this black and white one) than the plain black ones.
- For centuries, Europeans called these birds “sea ravens”, probably because they are the same color.
Here are some of the most interesting sites to learn more about the cormorant:
Lee’s Birds: Birds of the Bible- Cormorant (with a short video of cormorant fishing)
CORMORANTS Phalacrocoracidae by Don Roberson (lots of great pictures plus info. He shares extra about his local California neighbors)
Arkive: Cormorant– a whole slide show of photos and basic info
Some local pages about cormorants:
Double-crested Cormorant United States and Canada
Ireland- Cormorant with a map of where they like to hang out
New Zealand (where they often go by the name of “Shag” from their head feathers) There’s a lot of info on these 5 pages. You’ll need to click on some of the pictures to see them properly