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Brandt's cormorants (Urile penicillatus)
2022-05-01
© Allison J. Gong

It feels like forever since I've checked in on the cormorants at Natural Bridges. I simply haven't had time to mosey down there, take a gajillion photos, and then deal with them on the computer. But today I thought I'd give myself until lunch time to play with photos and such, before I hit the grindstone again and work on a lecture about the natural history of Big Sur.

And for the update: The Brandt's cormorants (Urile penicillatus) chicks are growing up! They're still mostly fluffy but some have a few feathers, and they're getting big now. I watched for about half an hour before realizing that the parents were feeding them; after that it was pretty easy to see when a feeding was imminent.

First, there's the behavior of the chick(s). Most of the time they are flopped like sacks of brown fluff, but when there's possible food they perk up and pay attention. It's funny how long their necks can be when stretched up! The chicks don't seem able to hold their heads up for very long yet. As we all know, however, food is a powerful motivator.

The parent also demonstrates what I think of as an about-to-regurgitate movements. It sort of reminds me of the cats' convulsions right before they hork up a hairball, only not as fast or violent. The parent cormorant stands up and sort of undulates front to back a few times, then bows low. This gets the chicks' attention and they start looking alert and expectant. The parent might go through the whole routine a few times before leaning towards the chick. The chick begins poking at the parent's bill, which seems to stimulate the actual regurgitation. Nom nom nom!

What I want to showcase this time is a series of photos showing a feeding session. The whole thing took about five seconds.

Large black birds in nests on rock. Chick pecking at parent's beak.
Brandt's cormorants (Urile penicillatus)
2022-05-01
© Allison J. Gong
Large black birds in nests on rock. Chick's head inside parent's mouth.
Brandt's cormorants (Urile penicillatus)
2022-05-01
© Allison J. Gong
Large black birds in nests on rock. Chick's head inside parent's mouth.
Brandt's cormorants (Urile penicillatus)
2022-05-01
© Allison J. Gong
Large black birds in nests on rock. Chick's head inside parent's mouth.
Brandt's cormorants (Urile penicillatus)
2022-05-01
© Allison J. Gong
Large black birds in nests on rock. Chick's head inside parent's mouth.
Brandt's cormorants (Urile penicillatus)
2022-05-01
© Allison J. Gong
Large black birds in nests on rock.
Brandt's cormorants (Urile penicillatus)
2022-05-01
© Allison J. Gong

Look at those stubby little wings! These youngsters have some growing to do and have to make real feathers before they can fledge. Maybe they'll have done so by the time I finish up with school for the year.

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