Q & A: Odd-looking Birds on the Light Standards

By Bob Lefebvre

Here at the Birds Calgary blog, we receive a lot of questions from bird-friendly folks throughout the province. We are sharing some of them with our readers as just another way to spread bird knowledge. 

If you have a question, email us at birdscalgary@gmail.com.  We may post your question and our answer.  We won’t print your name or email address without permission.

Here’s a question we received last September, but which is relevant again this year.

Q:  Hi.  There are birds that sit on the light standards on 16th Ave NE over the tracks alongside Deerfoot Trail.  They appear to be sleeping when I drive by at 8 AM, I am curious to know what they are.  There have been 2 or 3 on the westbound side and usually one on the eastbound side.  Thanks.

A: It’s hard to say what they are without some idea of the size, shape, or colour of the birds.  But I’m familiar with the area, and I think you might be referring to the “odd” birds that are sometimes seen there, which look long, slim, long-necked, and black.  If so, those are Double-crested Cormorants.  Their silhouette looks like this (photo taken in Fish Creek Park last week [September 2011]):

In better light they look like this, also taken last week [September 2011]:

Double-crested Cormorants are waterbirds that dive for fish and crustaceans.  They are often seen holding their wings out to dry off after a dive.  There are quite a few in the area of the weir on the Bow River, but they will soon be heading south.

Q: It’s definitely the Cormorants – last year there was just one, but now there are 2 or 3 on the westbound side and one on the eastbound side of 16th. They are always there in the morning but not always on my way home at 4:30. It’s quite high up so I can’t see much details from the car but definitely have the yellow beak and dark feathers.

(Note: In the past three weeks I have been seeing up to 35 cormorants in the area of Harvie Passage (the old weir on the Bow River) often perched in trees or on light standards along Deerfoot Trail.)

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One thought on “Q & A: Odd-looking Birds on the Light Standards

  1. The first time I saw a cormorant was Summer 2011 on the Oregon Coast. My young kids and I were exploring on the beach and came across a young one in the tall beach grass. We were cautious and gave it a lot of room and watched for other birds. It was surprising curious and affectionate for a wild bird! It waddled around us and on top of our shoes and I was even able to pick it up and hold it without aggression from the bird. We were WOWED. When we walked away it followed us for a bit and watched us as we walked back down the beach.
    In Calgary along the Bow River weir at the passage, we were most pleased to see cormorants here as well. 🙂 If there is a way I can send a few pictures to show you of our bird encounter, please send me a message. I do not suggest one walks up to docile birds and pick them up though! It was the situation at hand in Oregon that allowed us this experience.

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