The double-crested cormorants have come back to Lake Ontario, but so far there are only a few advance troops. They are still absent in the huge numbers that will eventually be here, when the migrating flocks get this far.
But I have seen a couple at Ashbridge’s Bay, and last week a thin black trail, barely visible, flying low over the open waters of the lake, far, far out.
Many people revile double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) and blame them for many ecological woes along our shores. And that’s a worthy debate. On the anti side there is plenty of compelling evidence. A breeding population that is too large, that damages — or, more accurately, kills the trees where nesting occurs. And some people say the cormorants are depleting fish stocks.
On the pro side….Just look at them. So handsome. Such intriguing faces with those beady aquamarine eyes.
I’m not the one to do the definitive analysis of what this species is doing to our local ecosystem. But a thorough and very readable article was published last year on this topic in Natural History Magazine written by Richard J. King, who did his Master’s thesis on the seabirds. If you want to know more about the cormorant debate, you can read his article here.
While others decide whether these big black birds are lovable or loathsome, I’m just going to keep on enjoying their antics in our bay.