Unusual cormorant behaviour

On my recent visit to Loxton in the Riverland region of South Australia I saw about 50 Little Black Cormorants. They were across the other side of the river. Every few seconds about 10-15 of the assembled birds would start madly flapping and splashing the water. They were not diving for fish and remained on the surface throughout the five to ten second splashing routine.

What were they doing?

I’ve never seen this behaviour in cormorants before. I’m at a loss to explain their behaviour. I invite readers to leave their explanations in the comments section below, or use the email contact form here.

Little Black Cormorants, River Murray, Loxton

Little Black Cormorants, River Murray, Loxton

Click on the photo to enlarge the image.

Apart from the bird on the far left, I didn’t manage to catch the splashing action on my camera. [Sigh]


8 Responses to “Unusual cormorant behaviour”

  1. Sulphur Crested White Cockatoo says:

    it wouldn’t be some sort of sexual display would it?

  2. Trevor says:

    I hadn’t considered that – it is a possibility.

    Another possibility is cooperative feeding where they are attempting to drive a school of fish into a central spot.

  3. Mike Mongo says:

    I have observed this behavior many times here in Key West: This is how they clean and unmatte their soake, clumping feathers! Often it will be done BEFORE they dive again, so as to increase their maneuverability through the water.

  4. Trevor says:

    Thanks Mike. Cormorant behaviour is something I haven’t really studied all that much, so I appreciate you stopping by a leaving these comments.

  5. Christy Papadakis says:

    I live in the Seattle area. I saw a Cormorant sitting in the water on Lake Washington and flapping its wings and slapping them on the water, making a big commotion. There was another Cormorant on top of a piling nearby. I wondered if the one in the water wanted the one on the piling to move so it could go there!

  6. Laura Maskell says:

    I just witnessed this happen in Massachusetts. I had never seen them act like that before. First just one and then 2 more joined in. I first thought the 1st one may have been snagged on a fishing line. But no, they eventually stopped and flew off

  7. Kathy says:

    Recently observed this behavior on north Lake Washington, Seattle area. Quite a bit of water slapping, ruckus, and swimming back and forth for >3 minutes with several cormorants nearby on pilings but free pilings still available. The active cormorant then hopped to a piling while another cormorant or two returned to the water. Calm restored.

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