Cormorant…Hanging by a Monofilament

Last Thursday, I was having coffee on the patio at the Apple Box.  While engaged in conversation, I happened to notice a small white area in one of the tall evergreens across the river by Dempsey’s and took a few quick photos for future reference. I did not think of it again until I downloaded the photos from the day. It appeared to be a large bird of some kind. For purposes of identification, I made a few local inquiries and got no response. 

I then sent the photo to a friend in Atlanta, GA who is an accomplished avian photographer and bird watcher of the first order. Drawing from her many photo trips throughout the world, she has always come up with an answer in the past when I submitted a photo for her “forensic” examination. As an aside, I usually send photos to her thinking I have captured some exotic species by accident and am gently reminded that I did no such thing.  This time, her response really brought me up short.

From the photo I submitted, she could not tell for sure; however, she thought it might be a cormorant.  But the identity was not important…the bird was quite dead!

This response, plus the rest of her report, sent me back to the scene on Sunday morning for a closer look…a “look” that challenged the outer limits of my gear to capture. I could not see what she saw in the photo I sent her, therefore I pushed the limits of the camera and…sure enough, the bird was still there…slowly twisting in the wind…hanging from a monofilament line…just like she said it would be…

According to my Atlanta Bird Expert:”It got caught up in fishing monofilament and hung itself. If you look closely, you can see the monofilament between the highest point in the bird’s neck and the tree. I’ve seen this on a number of occasions and it makes me sad. No telling where the young bird picked up the monofilament, but when it got close to the tree, it probably snagged and hung the bird. I had assumed the bird was some sort of night-heron, who frequently hang themselves.”

Eventually, the body will decompose…the remains falling to the ground below.  The monofilament line, however, will still be there…waiting for the next bird.

The line will be there a long time—600 years according to the Texas Sea Grant College Program and the California Coastal Commission.

“Because it is thin and often clear, it is difficult for birds and other animals to see and they can easily brush up against it and become entangled. Once entangled, they may become injured, drown, or starve to death. Many animals also ingest fishing line. One recovered sea turtle was found to have consumed 560 feet of heavy-duty fishing line.” (Texas Sea Grant College)

Also see California Coastal Commission.

NOTE:  Photos in this article are available upon request.