The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

Local Sports

May 15, 2013

Cormorants - A problem on our local marshes?

Medina Journal-Register — Back in the 1970s and 1980s I spent a lot of my weekends on the “Mighty St. Lawrence River” around the Ogdensburg area. Towards the end of these “weekend migrations” I began to notice a new bird along the River. It was a large dark bird that flew in small groups low in a straight line or ragged-V formation. The bird was a Double-crested Cormorant that was about two foot long, had a wing span of about four feet and black or dark brown plumage. Adults there had a orange colored bare skin area behind the bill, which is slightly hooked, and the throat area. The juveniles were more brownish with the underparts and throat area being lighter and the bill being orange instead of black like the adults.

Over the years this bird increased at alarming rates and became a real problem on the river and began spreading to Lake Ontario and the Niagara River. One of the problems was the their huge consumption of fish which they caught by diving under the water. Another problem was that their large nesting colonies on islands completely destroyed the vegetation due to their highly acidic body waste. These birds use, and thus destroy, the same type of areas favored by other colonial nesting birds like the great blue heron, great egrets, black-crowned night-herons, gulls and terns.

This destruction of the environment became more evident to me in recent years when I went on a few fishing trips to the Cape Vincent area of the St Lawrence. Not only were the birds everywhere but their white crap covered the islands where they nested and had eliminated all vegetation. It turned my stomach to see it and you didn’t want to get down wind of these areas.

The concern about this bird is that it consumes large amounts of fish including fish up to foot long and sometimes larger. They tell us that the average fish taken is usually less then six inches so it’s not a problem but to me this seems like it is a major problem. “Less than six inches” means they are taking a lot of our younger age class fish like perch, walleye, northern pike, bass and muskies which means down the road we are not going to be getting the adult renewal of these fish that we should. Anyone who does a lot of fishing knows that a few years of a lost “year age class” results in fewer adult fish in the future.

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