Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The flightless cormorant is the only cormorant found in the Galapagos, and of the 25+ cormorant species world-wide, it is the only one that has lost the ability to fly. Like other flightless birds, the keel on the breast bone, which supports the large flight muscles, is drastically reduced. Instead, the legs are heavier and more powerful than in other cormorants. Unlike the penguin, whose wings are used as paddles to literally fly through the water, the flightless cormorant propels itself by powerful kicks. The birds feed near the bottom on squid, octopus, eel, and fish. The loss of flight is probably due to both an absence of natural predators in the Galapagos, and to a restricted feeding area. Although all cormorants feed underwater, their feathers are not completely waterproof. Thus, upon emerging from the water, they typically stand for some time with their wings outstetched to dry.


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