West Seattle wildlife: Cormorant in trouble? Keep an eye out

Earlier today, David Hutchinson sent us that image of a cormorant that he said was behaving somewhat unusually – just sitting on a seawall, rather than in the water or on a piling. No indication of trouble, and it soon flew away, David says, but later in the day, as a Seal Sitters volunteer, he got word of a phone call that makes publishing the photo a more-urgent matter:

This afternoon, Seal Sitters received a call on our hotline, reporting a “non-native” cormorant on the beach near 53rd & Alki Ave. The reporting party said that the cormorant had trouble walking, appeared unable to fly, and had what could be a fishing lure in its mouth. Seal Sitters followed up, but was unable to locate the cormorant. If you spot this bird on a West Seattle beach, please call Seal Sitters hotline (206-905-7325) and we will respond and see if we can help.

5 Replies to "West Seattle wildlife: Cormorant in trouble? Keep an eye out"

  • Dennis Cheasebro August 16, 2012 (10:13 pm)

    This is a pelagic cormorant (thin bill with very little taper). I had thought they were found only at the coast and at sea (Sibley says “found exclusively along rocky ocean shores”), but I’ve been seeing them occasionally in Seattle and vicinity for at least three years. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any cormorant onshore, though, only in the air, in the water or on pilings and such. That’s one very bold or very distressed bird.

  • Mike August 16, 2012 (10:39 pm)

    well, Kitsap is pretty dang close and here’s a pic of a ton of them sitting on a dock in Kitsap next to a couple of Ballard Mallards. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pelagic_cormorants.jpg
    “On land, Pelagic Cormorants are rather clumsy and walk with the high-stepped waddling gait typical for all Sulae except darters; after landing they often scratch the ground, as is typical for cormorants.”
    Might explain the funky walk.

  • nature observer August 17, 2012 (9:47 am)

    The photos of pelagic cormorants in Kitsap County is a very poor one, with all but one bird facing away from the camera. My guess would be that the reason the photographer took this picture in the first place was due to the rarity of seeing pelagic cormorants in this area. I have lived at Alki for 19 years and have not seen one here before, and this is only the second time I’ve seen a cormorant standing on solid ground away from the water. This is just not their m.o. The other one, years ago, was one of our usual Double-creested Cormorants, and he made it all the way up to the sidewalk near the bathouse. P.S. I made the report, and did not say that the bird had trouble walking. I said only that it is very unusual and probably not a good sign to see a cormorant on dry land just a few feet from people. In fact, I saw parents sit idly by while their small children threw sticks and sand at the bird. Before it came ashore, the bird had been swimming very weakly along the shore, just a few feet out.

  • nature observer August 17, 2012 (10:04 am)

    I would like to make a second comment as well. Last weekend, for the first time, I heard the police using their loudspeakers to tell people to keep their dogs off the beach. I applaud this. Two weeks ago, for the first time, I saw a small family of whimbrels at the tideline on Alki Beeach. I believe this to be quite a rare sighting. Another thing some may know is that we have a resident flock of Sanderlings at Alki Beach. They are a tiny sandpiper, somewhat rare and most engaging. They have just returned from their annual breeding odyssey, which takes them far up into the Arctic Circle. I see people running their dogs on Alki in the early morning and in the dark of night, probably thinking that they aren’t bothering anybody because no humans are at the beach at those times. These are very important times for our Alki Sanderlings, who sleep together in a tight little group of about 60 birds near the tideline at night, with little sentries guarding their perimeter. I love dogs, simply adore them, and I know they adore the beach, but they do not belong there. Our resident sanderlings are special little guys. They are not common and oh-so-cute! Here’s a link:

  • AE August 17, 2012 (11:50 am)

    Pelagics are very common around here. Not so common BREEDING, but plenty are around and easy to see. And they never look graceful on land :).
    HORRIBLE about the fishing lure. Just terrible. I had one of “my” research eagles die that way once (seemed to have starved to death) and will never get over it.
    http://www.birdweb.org is a great place for local occurrence information.

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