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  • Writer's pictureTerry Wise

Return of the “Submersibles” to Carillon Stonegate Pond!

Updated: May 5, 2019

Ever walk along the Carillon Stonegate ponds and thought you saw a black “duck”, but it was no longer there. Perhaps it was just the sun and shadows playing with your mind.

And, yet a minute later, that black “duck” reappears on the surface of the pond!

It is one of the more unusual birds that frequent our ponds – the Double-crested Cormorant.

Unlike the sky-diving Caspian Terns that visit our water wonderland – diving from high above Carillon Stonegate Pond to its surface to fish, the Double-crested Cormorant goes from the surface and “submerses” deep into our ponds to fish.

For today’s blog, I have used a variety of sources, including Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds and the Audubon Society as a basis for learning.

Common Name: Double-crested Cormorant. Scientific Name: Phalacrocorax Auritus.

What to look for? Here is a description from All About Birds: “the gangly Double-crested Cormorant is a prehistoric-looking, matte-black fishing bird with yellow-orange facial skin”. They have small heads on long, kinked necks. They float low in the water with its thin neck and bill raised. They will perch upright on the water with wings half-spread to dry. The double-crest of the Double-crested Cormorant is only visible on adults during breeding season.

How big are they? The Double-crested Cormorant averages 32 inches in length. They weigh in at approximately 4 pounds. And their wingspan is approximately 4 feet.

What are their flight patterns? Awkward! Unlike ducks, the Double-crested Cormorants’ feathers are not very waterproof. While having water resistant feathers protects a bird’s body from getting soaked, this oily coating isn’t great for diving. Cormorants’ feathers instead get waterlogged, allowing the bird to sink and dive more efficiently. This is thought to be an adaptation that helps cormorants hunt underwater more effectively. Having good wings for swimming, however, comes at a price when flying. Because they have short wings which are perfect to use as rudders, cormorants have the highest energy cost of any flying bird – watch their take-off and you will wonder if they really can fly!

How else do they behave? Their fishing technique is impressive: diving and chasing fish underwater propelled by their webbed feet that are located off-center (and sometimes using their wings). Double-crested cormorants can dive to depths of 25 feet. They usually fish in the mid- to upper-tiers of a pond or lake. On Carillon Stonegate pond, our double-crested cormorant diving excursions typically last approximately 30 seconds before they resurface. The tip of a cormorant’s upper bill is shaped like a hook, which is helpful for catching prey.

What’s for dinner? Fish! Therefore, they like the well-stocked fish market at Carillon Stonegate ponds!

Where do they take up residence? At Carillon Stonegate Pond, you may sight a cormorant more typically on a Spring morning. Usually there will be only a single cormorant in the middle of our ponds, diving for fish.

Where do they migrate? The Double-crested Cormorant in northern Illinois typically migrate during the winter months to the southern and southeastern U.S.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve does an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for ou

r residents to enjoy. Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

And please come back to our blog or visit “Life on Carillon Stonegate Pond” to learn more about the birds and wildlife that live or visit this wonderful habitat. As I learn, I share with you.

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