Chris Naftel took this photo at Cub Lake in Bear Valley Springs of a Double-crested Cormorant. These long-necked aquatic birds are seldom encountered in the Tehachapi Mountains, but are spotted from time to time.
Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) are the size of a small goose, and of the six species of Cormorants in North America, they are the most widespread and the ones most likely to be seen in fresh water rather than marine environments.
Cormorants live on a diet that is almost entirely fish, and their long, hooked bill to seize fish underwater. Cormorants are excellent swimmers, using their stout, stubby legs and webbed feet to propel them underwater as they dive down in search of fish.
Cormorants are almost always found in or near water. They spend most of their time either fishing or resting. Because they have less preen oil than many aquatic birds, their feathers can get somewhat waterlogged or soaked from swimming and diving, so they can often be seen perched near water with their wings spread. This "wing spreading" behavior allows their feathers to dry more quickly.
Traditional fisherfolk in parts of Asia and Europe would use Cormorants to help them fish. A ring would be fastened to the lower part of the bird's neck, and attached to a leash. The bird would be placed in the water next to a small boat and allowed to dive in search of fish. It could swallow smaller fish, but the ring prevented larger fish from being swallowed, and these would be retrieved by the fisherman when the bird returned to the boat.
Double-crested Cormorants are one example of the various birds that are occasionally found in the Tehachapi Mountains. They are usually spotted in spring or autumn.
NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.