Nesting Magellanic Cormorants & Chicks~

Magellanic Cormorants are sea birds living in the frigid waters of the southern ocean and are found from southern Chile down through the Beagle Channel to Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia Argentina.

I was thrilled to find a colony of nesting birds and settled in for some telephoto shooting.

I don’t believe in disturbing nesting birds, and always watch them from a non-intrusive distance.

And then this happened! These curious humans arrived by boat, got way too close, took photos with their cell phones, and panicked the birds.

All the parents understandably flew off in terror as soon as the humans got so close, exposing incubating eggs and unfledged chicks to the elements.

You can see one very brave parent remained, until even this last hold-out, got frightened by the persistent humans and flew away.

The fledglings scrambled together terrified,

as I watched all this, completely appalled.

I am however, very pleased to report a happy ending to this sad tale. The humans eventually left, the frightened parents cautiously returned, and the colony resumed peaceful functioning. You can see the mother’s settling back on their nests. The chicks were very lucky that hungry giant petrels, skuas or gulls didn’t find them in such a vulnerable state.

So thankfully, it’s cheers to you, from the very frightened birdies (and photographer)~

257 thoughts on “Nesting Magellanic Cormorants & Chicks~

    1. Most people don’t think of other beings they share the planet with in those terms it seems Dorinda. I hope more will – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

  1. Anonymous

    I am also appalled by the lack of sensitivity people displayed while being so close to the nesting area. Great story and post!

  2. I am so happy for the happy ending to what I know were anxious moments for you as you watched at what was happening. This reminds me of a scripture in Psalm 84:3 that says, “Even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young…” What an illustration of the love and wonders God gives us in his created beings. 🙂

      1. Your welcome, and thank you. Be blessed also, my friend. 🙂 I always love seeing your nature and animal photos because it is always a reminder of why we are so blessed and inriched in our lives to have such beautiful creatures to enjoy and care for on this earth.

  3. Cindy did you notice your were tagged for a fun project? I don’t have URL with me but it is in post, Behind the Illness in 4’s. No pick 11 people, just four. I hope you enjoy. I’m excited to learn more about you. I also have a project to discuss in another email about my new Blog site, I hope you have a short time to participate.

    1. It was some sort of free standing pier platform in the bay that probably very rarely gets used. I am guessing it only gets used during three months or so a year during the southern summer and even then, rarely.

  4. I’ve had a special fondness for cormorants ever since I read Scott O’Dell’s book, Island of the Blue Dolphins, to my class many years ago. The woman in that book was stranded on the island for many years and made herself a skirt of cormorant feathers. Apparently that skirt is still kept in a museum at the Santa Barbara Mission in California. The story is fiction but it is based on a real woman who was rescued from the Channel Islands and is now buried at the Mission. I haven’t gone to see if the cormorant feather skirt is really there, but it added a nice touch to the story.
    Your photos are beautiful. Love this post.

    1. I know that book so well, having read and re-read it so many times as a kid. I was enraptured by the book, by the illustrations and the whole amazing concept as living alone ib a island in my own hand built enclosure with my feral dog Rantu, my feral bird, keeping an eye out for the Aluets and I remember very well what the cormorant skirt looked like in the sketch. I met the author years later as an adult briefly at a party in the town where I was born and grew up. Synchronistic that you should mention this book!

  5. Cindy. you just can’t fix Stupid! Stuff like this makes me angry. I’m glad the birds and babies are okay now, and I hope they’ll be safe from here on out!

    1. It was so frustrating to watch this and be able to do nothing. It reminded me a little bit of the of the feelings engendered by Hitchcock’s film, ‘Rear Window.’

  6. WHEW!!!! What the he** is wrong with humans? So many have no regard for life. Selfish little b&%#ar^s! No wonder we need zoo habitats and the such! Sigh! Uch!!
    Oh, and how about the new “Likes” scroll. Just another not broken thing WordPress fixed! Poo!

    1. I haven’t heard about the changes to the likes. It’s probably better I don’t find out!! And yes, I wish people would be more sensitive and considerate around wild creatures.

  7. They shouldn’t have gone too close and just observed from a safe distance. Great pictures but it’s sad those men disturbed the nesting birds 😕

  8. Ignorant humans just…..don’t……think (that their actions are counterproductive to the existence of the local birdlife). Thank goodness there are some of us nature lovers and environmentalists around to counter their thoughtless actions.
    Good to hear the humans left relatively quickly and the Cormorants were left in peace.

    1. Yes, I was especially alarmed for the incubating eggs and featherless chicks due to the cold weather. There was a period after the boat left and I was watching and the giant petrels were in the sky and this was also a worry. Human beings cause such ripple effects by our actions…..

  9. So disappointed in humans ONCE AGAIN! I guess when you believe you are the only thing that’s important you don’t have to take others into consideration. Your pictures are amazing and so very beautiful. I’m so relieved that the ending was a happy one.

    1. I will confess to freaking out while it was going down. I had been watching them for awhile and was so impressed with the couple sharing of responsibilities and the general dedication of bird parents, mama rolling her eggs, papa inspecting when he flew in. All so very bird like, and then this happened. And I had to sit there and watch while they tramped up the ladder with the parents were gone. It was like a scary movie. I had to wait and see the parents come back before I could relax.

    1. Yes, thank you for knowing. I was super upset by this. But I don’t want this to be anything about how these people were bad. They appreciated the baby birds. We humans can all so easily be bad, when we don’t reflect on, or know what we are doing. This is something that affects all of us everyday, in all our interactions, and often we don’t know it.

  10. Some people are thoughtless … And even the southern oceans are already polluted by plastic and the birds use it for nest building. But, of cause, not as bad as in other regions. But still bad and dangerous for the young birds…

  11. I love Cormorants (we have a British version). They always seem very Medieval. The sort of bird you’d see drawn in an 11th century manuscript. What really stupid people, by the way.

    1. Yes, I would love to see such a manuscript! It would be so beautifully done in the margins. The chicks especially look even more ancient to me, like dinosaurs. I know they have cormorants in Egypt and can envision them in ancient Egyptian art as well.

        1. I can’t believe you found a cormorant in Egyptian art! Bravo! I had a memory of seeing one once, but I searched and couldn’t find any, so kudos to you and thank you too! I love the artwork that is such an essential part of those old manuscripts. We have lost quite a lot of artisanship and attention to beauty with ‘progress’ haven’t we. 🐦

  12. Great photos and documentation of how humans can unwittingly interfere with wildlife. It’s too bad that there was no one there to explain to those people how their actions were impacting the birds.

    1. Yes, it is so important to respect all wildlife’s need for safe viewing distances. This keeps both humans and wildlife safe. You can observe an animal by approaching them very, very slowly, and stop as soon as they show the slightest bit of concern.

        1. Yes! Thanks. They aren’t cute in a conventional critter way, but they have their own amazing gravitas and ‘endearingness’ as vulnerable dinosaur babies. Laughing……

  13. Glad the moms and dads returned to take care of their chicks. I suspect it made you want to yell at the intruders and/or the boat owner/guide that took them so close. I had an amusing bird encounter this morning, Cindy. I saw a rosy finch fluttering around our door windows. When I walked over it landed on the container I keep sunflower seeds in, and then flew over to the empty bird feeder! Do you think it was all happenstance? 🙂 Anyway, I went out and refilled the feeder. –Curt

    1. That was no happenstance! Birds are incredibly smart and they watch humans in their environments carefully. We get nagged all the time to refill feeders, top off bird baths etc. Hummingbirds are the most blatant naggers and will come right up to my office window and buzz at me directly until I go fill the feeder.

    1. Yes. Birds are such incredibly high intensity, incredibly devoted parents, it would have been horrible to see it go the other way. At The Holler, the hummers, and other birds will hatch clutch after clutch of young, raise them in this exceedingly frenetic totally devoted way bird parents do. They do this because I supply them with food and birds will nest over and over if there is a steady supply of food. I wonder if I am exhausting them.

    1. I don’t want to paint the humans in a bad way. They were surprised and appreciative of the birds and they seemed very nice people. They just didn’t realize how terrifying they were to the birds.

    1. Yeah. Honestly. I don’t get it. We’re supposedly a penultimate adaptive species, because we ruin everything? How is this adaptive? Maybe we are a failed species, like dinosaurs, but unlike them, entirely to blame for our own, and every other creatures demise.

      1. There’s no such thing as an ‘ultimate’ or ‘master’ species: calling ourselves that is just a bunch of chest-thumping. You’re right though, in a very short amount of time (geologically speaking) we’ve managed to put ourselves at risk of extinction. The longer it takes us to stop congratulation ourselves on how awesome we are, the greater that risk will become.

  14. I hate cormorants with a passion, as they are an invasive species in the Great Lakes, but I admire your photos. Did you happen to get any of ducks? Argentina has an amazing variety and I wondered what kinds live in Patagonia.

    1. I have arctic geese and related species as well as chicks and much more. Stay tuned. I will be posting many more bird photos. I got an amazing variety. Oh, and very nice to meet you.

  15. Homo sapiens are really so un-wise and stupid… In a blog I wrote called ‘Earth’s greatest treasure’, I used John Aspinall,s wonderful creed about the sanctity of all life, and the damaging belief in the sanctity of human life – he called the wilderness ‘earth’s greatest treasure,’
    He was not wrong, and it was so sad to see the wilderness so graphically conveyed in your wonderful photos, invaded by the most destructive species on the planet…
    And thank you for all the years of showing us the wonders of the wilderness through your camera and eyes…

    1. I agree so wholeheartedly <3 with everything you say here. Thank you! And thank you for appreciating our fragile and incredibly beautiful world and all her glorious creatures! I will check out John Aspinall. Thanks for the tip. 🐦🐦

    1. Birds are more polite than humans! Although I have seen people throw rocks at seagulls and the gulls launched a coordinated attack doing exactly what you describe, just pelting the people with flying revenge. It was great! 🐦🐦

  16. Your photographs never cease to amaze me Cindy, so colourful and vibrant with beautiful detail, do you use long range lens, whatever camera you use it is an excellent choice ?

    1. Awww, thank you so much! So kind of you and so appreciated too, and yes, these were taken with full zoom at 1200mm. I used the Sony HX400 which is not a super pricey camera but is an excellent one.

    1. This was a strange nesting place in that many cormorant species nest on steep cliffs. But they do also like to nest on things that are surrounded by water which serves a moat like function, as was the case with these birds

      1. I recall when we stayed in Cape Town and hiked out to the peninsula that is at the southern tip. I watched the sea birds (might have been cormorants) flying into nests along the cliffs below us. I felt as if I were going to go swirling off the edge of the viewing area with the winds that they floated on.

        1. Yes, they often nest on super vertical cliffs that are impossible for humans to reach. This was definitely somewhat unusual. Sounds awesome in Cape Town. I love South Africa! Happy Weekend~

  17. OMG! So sad you had to witness this side of the human behavior, completely inconsiderate of the needs of other life forms. But I’m grateful for the happy ending <3

  18. Such beautiful photos, Cindy. Why/How do people have to be so indifferent and insensitive? It’s very frustrating. It’s like thought and caring have just gone out the window. I’m glad it worked out for the birds. <3

  19. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    It is Valentine’s Day and we are not the only creatures on the planet whose thoughts turn to romance in the spring. Cindy Knoke has taken some amazing photographs of Magellanic Cormorants in Chile on her trip there. She used a telephoto lens.. however witnessed eejits in a boat with cellphone cameras frightening the birds off their nests. It could have resulted in predators getting the young chicks and eggs. However, thankfully after the twits left the parent birds returned.. I know which species exhibits more common sense… thanks Cindy spectacular as always.

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