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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Extinct Birds

Spectacled Cormorants, Phalacrocorax perspicillatus

Spectacled Cormorant

Spectacled Cormorants were seabirds that bred in coastal and island habitats in the North Pacific, primarily in the Commander Islands, in the Bering Sea, during the summer breeding season.

They had distinctive white patches around their eyes, resembling spectacles, which gave them their name. They were also known for their large size and strong, sturdy build compared to other cormorant species.

Spectacled Cormorants were commonly found in rocky coastal areas and cliffs, which were rugged and provided numerous ledges and crevices over ocean waters where fish and marine invertebrates were abundant during the breeding season.

They foraged in shallow coastal waters and around underwater kelp forests for fish species such as sand lance, sculpin, and capelin. They also fed on marine invertebrates like squid and crustaceans.

Spectacled Cormorants were excellent divers, using their webbed feet to propel themselves underwater to catch prey. Their sharp, hooked bills allowed them to grasp slippery fish with ease.

During courtship, males displayed by stretching their necks, spreading their wings, and vocalizing to attract females. Pairs formed strong bonds and often performed synchronized movements.

Nests were built with seaweed, grass, and other plant materials, typically on rocky ledges and crevices on cliffs. Nests were often reused and added to each year, creating substantial structures over time.

Females laid 3-4 eggs, which both parents incubated for about 30 days. After hatching, chicks were initially fed regurgitated fish and invertebrates by both parents.

Chicks learned to forage by following their parents to shallow waters where they practiced diving and catching small prey. As they grew, they became more proficient hunters but remained vulnerable to predation and harsh weather conditions.

Fledging occurred after about 8-10 weeks, with continued parental guidance in foraging techniques and diet expansion to include a wider range of fish and invertebrates.

Spectacled Cormorants did not migrate long distances. They remained in the vicinity of their breeding colonies, shifting slightly to more sheltered coastal areas during the non-breeding season where they continued to forage for fish and marine invertebrates.

The arrival of humans on Bering Island in the 18th century led to intense hunting for food and feathers and predation by introduced species such as rats and foxes.

Their extinction occurred before modern conservation practices were established. The last known individuals were observed in the 1850s, with no formal attempts to prevent their extinction recorded. Expeditions to Bering Island and surrounding areas in the Commander Islands to locate Spectacled Cormorants found no evidence of surviving populations.