Echo Lake cormorants spread their wings - and dive

Friday, February 5, 2021

Photo by Gidget Terpstra

There is a tree on the edge of Echo Lake that has been a home to cormorants for decades. Sometimes the tree is full of roosting birds and sometimes they are out. There is always a lot of activity around the tree.

Echo Lake is stocked with fish each year, which makes the cormorants very happy. Somehow they leave enough for the human fishers.

Photo by Gidget Terpstra
Gidget and Dennis Terpstra were walking on the Interurban Trail by the lake when they saw a cormorant on a branch with his wings spread wide. 

He stayed that way for several minutes while the Terpstras watched. They continued their walk.

When they came back there were not one but three cormorants with their wings spread.

Gidget didn't have to go far to find an explanation. Her associate on the Echo Lake Neighborhood board, Marla Tulio, is a retired marine biologist with a long career at the Seattle Aquarium.

According to Marla,  
Cormorants are deeper diving birds and don’t have as much oil on their feathers as other non-diving birds. 
Their feathers get wet otherwise they would be too buoyant. 
After a good meal they have to dry their feathers. They apparently do this even in the rain.

They can dive very deep, then they have to spread their wings to dry off and stay warm above water again. 
That plus hopefully scoring some nutritious food after their underwater hunt.

There are lots of Cormorants downtown on the piers and aquarium visitors would ask that question all the time.


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