Until now it has been a mystery as to how Cormorants are able to catch fish regardless of whether the water is crystal clear or murky. Professor Graham Martin and his team from the University's Centre for Ornithology have found that Cormorants are the underwater equivalent of herons, taking prey only at short range and by stealth, flushing fish out from hiding places and grabbing them with a rapid lunge of the neck.
Professor Martin explained: “Cormorants are often seen as mysterious birds with a vicious beak. They are disliked by anglers, while in
An extra trick that Cormorants have developed to help them with their efficient feeding is their ability to move their eyes and see between their beaks. Professor Martin continued “Not many birds can see what they are holding in their mouth – most birds see just beyond their beak tip, much as we see just beyond our nose. Cormorants, however, can swing their eyes forward to see what they are holding. This may be an essential part of their success, since they may often grab something barely seen as it tries to escape when flushed out. Cormorants will need to bring it to the surface to check it out before swallowing.
“We are full of admiration for these birds and the way that natural selection has led to their poor underwater vision being complemented by their artful fishing technique.”
Photo: Steve Young (www.birdsonfilm.com)