Saved and Raised: Nesting Double-crested Cormorant Eggs From PG&E Transmission Lines

A just hatched Double-crested Cormorant from 2008 at the San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center. Photo: International Bird Rescue

In June 2008 a handful of Double-crested Cormorant eggs were saved from nesting next to PG&E transmission structures near the Dumbarton Bridge in Palo Alto, CA. After being rescued and rushed to International Bird Rescue in Fairfield, five of them survived after hatching. They were raised by staff and kept wild.

To understand the challenges of raising these birds after hatching, Michelle Bellizzi, Bird Rescue’s Rehabilitation Manager, describes the work at hand:

“Because cormorants aren’t precocial like many other waterbirds, they required handfeeding for several weeks, and the risk of imprinting and/or habituation was fairly high. To keep them wild, we used a “Kormorant Kostume” and Cormorant puppet to feed them up to 6 times a day. They heard the soothing sounds of a cormorant colony (procured by a wonderful volunteer who visited the cormorant colony at Lake Merritt in Oakland) day and night to familiarize them with the natural sounds of their elders.”

“WildCare in Marin has graciously “lent” us their non-releasable education cormorants to serve as surrogates, so that the baby cormorants are able to see wild adult cormorants in action. The babies are currently in an aviary that mimics closely their natural habitat (without the power lines) – they’re in with birds that they usually nest around: pelicans, gulls, and other cormorants. We hope that they’re ready for release in mid/late August.”