Flightless Cormorants Courting and Nesting Season

July 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

With less than 1500 estimated individuals the Flightless Cormorant is one of the rarest birds in the world.  Endemic to the Galapagos Islands, they are the only cormorant who has lost their ability to fly. These unique birds which can be found near the island of east coast of Fernandina or on the north or west coast of Isabela have evolved to be able to survive the harsh climate.

From now until October, when the food is most abundant the flightless cormorants will court then nest. During the peak breeding time there may be 12 breeding couples in a colony.

The cormorants complex mating ritual begins at sea where pair will swim around each other with their long necks stretched out in an “S” like fashion.  The male will then lead the female ashore where he turns his back to her and forms the “S” with his neck.

Within 100 meters of the sea on flat lava or a sheltered outcrop the couple will build a nest out of presents the male brings to the female. Nests are typically built of sea weed, urchins, sea stars, flotsam and small fish.  The female normally lays 3 eggs and the pair will take turns incubating the eggs.  Typically only one chick will survive and both parents also participate in the feeding and brooding until the chick is big enough to be independent.  At which time the female will leave the chicks with the father to find another mate.

The only way to view Flightless Cormorants and their mating rituals is aboard a Galapagos Cruise which includes Fernandina and the western side of Isabela.


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