Reader Joe Dickinson sent some photographs of cormorants; his comments are indented.
Walking recently along the Eastcliff pedestrian path in Santa Cruz, we had a nice look at some cormorants in the lower branches of a tree hanging out over the cliff. That prompted me to go to my archives for some other favorite shots of cormorants and their cousins.
First the instigators, a pair of double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), one in a characteristic pose with wings spread to dry.
Two other species found locally are Brandt’s cormorant (P. penicillatus), seen here on a seaweed nest atop a piling, and the pelagic cormorant (P. pelagicus) shown as a pair in graceful ballet on a pier railing. Both are at Moss Landing, a few miles down the coast.
Here are a couple of shots of the flightless Galapagos cormorant (P. harrisi). This is the only flightless cormorant, but loss of flight is, of course, fairly common in island endemics. Note the greatly reduced wing size.
Here is an African reed cormorant (Microcarbo africanus) seen at Chobe National Park in Botswana a few years ago.
That last bird was mistakenly identified by our guide as an anhinga (sister group to cormorants). The resemblance (general build) is evident in this actual anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) seen in the Florida Everglades. The second shot shows that same wings-spread pose. There is an African species of anhinga, also called the African Darter but, like the American species, it has a straight beak without the hook seen in all of the cormorants.
Finally, another pelagic cormorant in a sort of “me-and-my-shadow” shot with a slightly more distant cousin, the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). They were photographed a bit up the coast from Santa Cruz at Wilder Ranch State Park.