Cormorant bird study

George Abernathy

With assistance from the Sun Lakes Fly Fishing Club and volunteers from the residents who live in Sun Lakes, a cormorant bird survey was conducted in March throughout the Sun Lakes communities for Arizona Game & Fish Department. Prior to the survey, a meeting was held with Dr. Larisa Harding from AZGFD and the management teams from all the HOA’s. The purpose of the survey is to conduct research to characterize cormorant populations and their distribution and impacts on fish. With total support of all the management teams, 20 resident volunteers conducted the initial cormorant bird count.

A fully-grown cormorant bird can eat up to 1-1/2 pound of fish per day and can dive to over 50 feet deep and spend up to 70 seconds in pursuit of fish. Even today, a few Asian Countries still use trained cormorants to harvest fish for human consumption. Since getting involved with this study, I have heard and have researched more than one story where large cormorant populations have devastated fish populations in lakes and the trees where they nest.

The cormorants are classified as a migratory bird and, thus, are protected by our government. Hopefully, the results of this two-year study will yield enough facts to assist the AZGFD in obtaining permission to deal with the cormorant population that has decided to make parts of Arizona their permanent home.

The AGFD need volunteers to help with this survey in the Sun Lakes communities and throughout Arizona. It requires a little amount of your time and is actually fun to do. Information can be obtained at your HOA, or you can contact Dr. Larisa Harding directly at [email protected] or call her at 623-236-7301.

Being an avid fly fisherman, the first thing I now look for when I go fishing are the cormorants. Every time I see one, I think about the fish they are eating that I could be catching and releasing, and my thoughts and feeling are shared by most people who fish. Several years ago, Sun Lakes Phase 1 was forced to cut down two trees that were the home to about 75 nesting cormorants. They were devouring all the fish in a couple of lakes. The AGFD needs help in properly combating these birds so, again, please contact them to help them out.

Fish On! Fish On!