A flightless cormorant, surprising, isn’t it…..
This is the case of the Galapagos cormorant, the only bird of its species in the world that is flightless and you can find it in the archipelago of the Galapagos Islands.
There are 29 species in the world, being the flightless the heaviest and rarest of all. Because of this it does not have the capacity to migrate.
Something particular about their appearance that attracts the attention of tourists and visitors is that they look a bit like ducks with small wings, these birds can measure between 89 and 100 centimeters, making them large and heavy for their species, however, the female is smaller and therefore with less weight.
Their arrival in the Galapagos was from the mainland, located a thousand kilometers away. That is, their ancestors could fly. It is estimated that it arrived in the Galapagos two million years ago and its ancestors are South American.
Currently there are less than 1,500 flightless cormorants that inhabit the Galapagos Islands. Their estimated lifespan is around 13 years, which depends a lot on the circumstances and conditions of their environment.
Currently there are less than 1500 flightless cormorants inhabiting the Galapagos. Their life span is approximately 13 years. This bird is considered vulnerable. On land, the most frequent threats are owls, hawks, snakes and introduced species such as cats or rats (threat to breeding).
It has evolved only in Galapagos because it has very few predators in the archipelago. On land, its potential predators are snakes, owls and hawks, as well as introduced species such as rats and cats. Despite being an expert diver, it can become prey to sharks.
Its adaptability occurred in a volcanic terrain, lacking the usual vegetation found in the continental region, even before Fernandina and Isabela existed.
This species can be observed in the Isabela and Fernandina Islands where they can be seen throughout the year, often hunting their prey close to the shore, since their diet is based on octopus, squid, eels and fish that inhabit the seabed.
It usually does not go farther than 200 meters from the shore. With great skill they reach impenetrable crevices in search of morsels. They dive five to six times to obtain food for the adult specimens and their young.
The cormorant is an aquatic bird that feeds on the fish it catches underwater, diving with the impulse of its legs and can reach a depth of 10 meters for more than a minute.
An interesting thing about the cormorant is that it can reach a depth of 10 meters deep for more than a minute.
Due to the lack of predators, the cormorant has forgotten how to fly, therefore, with the passing of time its wings have been reducing their size, however, they have adapted to the currents and demands of the sea.
They have turquoise eyes, their neck is very long, which makes it easier for them to reach their prey, their very short wings do not allow them to get off the ground, as most birds do. So after hunting, it can be observed with its wings stretched out to dry its feathers and warm up. It has strong legs that propel it through the water as it searches for prey and webbed feet that help it adapt to the volcanic soil and move freely in the water.
Their chicks, on the other hand, are dark brown in color and, unlike their parents, have very dark eyes.
Nesting usually occurs during the colder months, when seafood is more abundant and when the risk of hyperthermia in the chicks is reduced. During this time, colonies of about 12 pairs are formed. Courtship begins in the sea where the male and female swim around each other with their necks twisted into a snake shape. The female builds a large nest barely higher than the tide line, with seaweed and “gifts” such as pieces of rope, bottle caps, fish scraps, and dead starfish that the male brings to contribute to its construction.
The female usually lays three whitish eggs per clutch, although only one chick usually survives. The pair usually takes turns incubating the eggs. This takes place for 35 days of the chicks’ life. After hatching, the male and female continue to share the responsibilities of feeding and protecting and raising the chicks, which require parental care for at least 70 days, after which they can fend for themselves.
After the chicks become independent, and if supplies are plentiful, the female leaves to find another mate, leaving the male to do the rest of the chick care. Females can reproduce three times each year. So, although the population of this species is small, the number of flightless cormorants can recover quickly from environmental disasters.
One of the threats to the Galapagos Islands is the El Niño phenomenon. From 1982 to 1983, this phenomenon decimated the population of these birds by 50 percent. El Niño increases the temperature and the cormorants find less food.
At that time they were in danger of extinction, as only 400 remained. They could not reproduce normally either, but the survival instinct allowed them to save the species. Thus, by 1999, the population had reached 1,000 specimens.
This species lives in a limited area and its population is very small. This makes it vulnerable to marine disturbances, such as oil spills, or other types of disasters. For this reason, the scientists of the National Park monitor them permanently.