Photographer's Note

This male Flightless Cormorant was bringing nesting material back to the nest. The following text comes from Galapagos Conservation Trust website: "The Galapagos flightless cormorant is an endemic species to Galapagos and is not only the heaviest cormorant species, but also the one which cannot fly out of 29 species. As the name suggests, they cannot fly away and are therefore confined to the lava shoreline and beaches of Isabela and Fernandina. The adults are black on top and dark brown underneath with bright turquoise eyes. They have stunted wings that are one third the size of the wingspan they would require to fly. They have four webbed toes (like all members of the cormorant family) and the females tend to be smaller than the males. Natural selection led to the species no longer having functional wings as they had very few land predators, and individuals that were better suited to swimming were more successful in passing on their genes.

Currently there are around 1,000 breeding pairs of flightless cormorants on Isabela and Fernandina. Although their wings are stunted, they are used for balance when the cormorant jumps from rock to rock along the coast. As their wings don’t produce very much oil, they have lost some of their waterproofing so after a dive they can be seen to hold their wings out in order for them to dry.

Their diet consists mainly of eels and octopus, which they reach by diving deep to the ocean floor. Unlike penguins, they do not ‘fly’ underwater, but tuck in their wings and kick with their powerful hind legs, using their flexible necks to spear octopus and fish from inside small refuges in the reefs and rocks. On the surface they sit very low in the water, with only their necks visible from a distance.

Couples perform a strange and unique courtship dance that involves them intertwining their necks whilst twirling in a tight circle. The mated pair then makes a nest a few metres from the sea out of seaweed, flotsam and jetsam.

Most eggs are laid between May and October, which are the coldest months, resulting in an abundance of marine food and less heat stress on the hatchlings. The eggs are incubated for 35 days until they hatch, after which the parents take turns to feed the chicks. Eventually the male is left to care for the chick and the female starts a new breeding cycle, which can happen up to three times in one season. When the chicks become adults, they develop the trademark blue eyes"

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Additional Photos by Eric Daniels (lipscer) Silver Note Writer [C: 1 W: 0 N: 537] (1331)
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