You’ve probably never seen a Red-faced Cormorant, but you’ve probably seen those birds that the Chinese use to fish. That’s a cormorant cousin.
“and do not give the devil a foothold.”Ephesians 4:27
In Search of a Red-Faced Cormorant
“If you look to the right,” Captain John said, “you’ll see two Red-faced Cormorants perched on the rock.
I lifted my binoculars and tried to hold them steady as the boat rocked in the swells. I finally zeroed in on one of the regal birds and lowered my binoculars. Now, if I could only get a shot with my camera. For the next five minutes, Captain John kept the boat as close as he safely could while we took photos and observed.
Finally, after six years of wanting to see a Red-Faced Cormorant, I had seen two. When I first started spending summers in Alaska, my eBird app and my iBird Pro app assured me finding a Red-faced Cormorant shouldn’t require an investment in time and money.
During my first summer in Alaska, locals in both Seward and Homer assured me the birds regularly nested a short boat ride away from shore. But year after year, I failed to see one. Now the locals shrug and say they haven’t seen any either.
Why is the World Population of this Species in Decline?
A quick search on All About Birds (Cornell University’s excellent Bird Lab website) explains why the Red-faced Cormorant has joined the list of species in decline.
1. Red-faced cormorants don’t nest in huge colonies like their cousins, the Pelagic cormorant. Their nesting behaviors may put their eggs at risk from predators. It’s easier to snag an egg from a lone nest with only one parent nearby than to get an egg from a nest surrounded by hundreds of other nests with birds. When danger lurks, bird species that nest together will start a murmuration or unified flight to distract and confuse the predator. I’ve seen this happen multiple times when Bald Eagles try to attack a colony of birds nesting on cliffs.
2. Oil spills and chemical contamination harm both the eggs and the parents. According to the Marine Defenders website when oil from spills comes in contact with eggs, the chicks may end up with liver damage or bone and bill deformities.
Oil and chemical contamination in the ocean also impact the Red-faced Cormorant’s food sources.
3. Plastic contamination in the ocean can shorten a bird’s life. You can read more about the great garbage patches on National Geographic.
4. Commercial fishing can create a junk-food environment for seabirds. Overfishing can deplete seabirds’ natural prey, causing birds to go in search of readily available food. Seabirds may eat unfamiliar species discarded from fishing vessels (fast food for birds and about as healthy). While finding readily available food sounds good, if doing so changes natural behaviors, it can have a negative impact on birds.
5. Introduced predators (foxes) have reduced the population of Red-faced Cormorants. Fur trappers for the Russian-American Company decided to use the Aleutian Islands as a fox farm back in the late 1800s. The high bird populations on the islands and lack of other predators made the scheme seem ideal. For the trappers. After World War II, fox fur fell out of favor, and trappers stopped harvesting the foxes. Which led to overpopulation and a decline in native bird populations.
Lessons We Can Learn
It seems as if the world population of Christians has entered a decline as well. Maybe we can learn something from the plight of the Red-faced Cormorant.
- Hanging out with a community of believers helps provide safety. We can watch out for each other and strengthen each other’s faith.
- As adults, we must watch for contaminants in our lives to keep our chicks strong. Teaching our kids about the love of Jesus will do no good if our children listen to us gossip and hate on others around the dinner table.
- There’s a lot of hate garbage out there. Unfortunately, some of it comes from churches and people who claim to follow Christ. We need to learn to recognize it and find ways not to let it pollute our lives.
- We need to study the Bible for ourselves and test what others say based on what we find in the Bible. People calling themselves Christians offer a lot of junk food to unsuspecting believers.
- The devil wants to devour us, and all too often, we wander around thinking he doesn’t pose a threat. 1 Peter 5:8
Father God, help me to seek you above all else and to make my relationship with you personal rather than commercial. Let the words I speak and my actions reflect your love and compassion.