Double-crested Cormorants at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. Would Hitchcock be Proud?
It was a beautiful evening at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge between Turlock and Los Banos. We were along Salt Slough, a tributary to the San Joaquin River, watching beavers or muskrats and various small birds flitting thorough the trees. But we couldn't shake the feeling that we were being watched...
I looked harder into the trees to find that we were being watched. I had a momentary thought of scenes from a Hitchcock movie concerning avians instead of aliens, but it was clear the birds were simply settling in for the night.
They were a flock of Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus). They are the most common Cormorant in the United States, with a range that includes the entire lower 48 states and Alaska.
These birds probably could be forgiven if they harbor anti-human impulses a la "The Birds". They were hunted and shot in large numbers a century or more ago, and in the sixties they were nearly done in by the use of DDT. They've rebounded and are generally doing well in most places.