Take a Dive with an Imperial Cormorant

Take a Dive with an Imperial Cormorant

Justine E. Hausheer
Published: 08/03/2012

Imagine plunging 150 feet down into the ocean in 40 seconds. Cool, right? Now imagine propelling yourself down through the water with wings. New video footage reveals that that is exactly how the imperial cormorant, a South American seabird, hunts for fish.

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society fitted one lucky cormorant with a tiny camera to observe its feeding behavior for the first time. The cormorant dived an amazing 150 feet down to the seafloor in 40 seconds, fed on the bottom for 80 seconds, and returned to the surface just as quickly with a fish. The camera is strapped to the cormorant’s back, and viewers can see the bird’s head bob along as it propels itself to the seafloor.

The imperial cormorant is a water bird native to the Antarctic Peninsula and southern South America. The footage was recorded in Punta León in Patagonia, Argentina, a protected coastal area that is home to more than 3,500 breeding pair of cormorants. Several similar bird species live in the United States, including the common double-crested cormorant, the pelagic cormorant of the west coast, and the anhinga of the southeast.

The WCS is using other high-tech conservation tools to study cormorants along the Patagonian coast, including high-resolution GPS-loggers to track more than 400 birds. By better understanding cormorant feeding behavior, scientists can identify priority areas for coastal protection.

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