A bird’s guide to drip-drying


Double-crested cormorant (adult non-breeding plumage) is drying its wings

Wessel gives us this dispatch from Florida:

Kayaking has become one of our favorite pastimes over the past two years. It’s pleasant because it allows a look at the world from a different much lower angle at a pace that’s much slower than usual. Probably because of this much humbler behavior wildlife seems to tolerate kayaking humans better than humans in walking or cycling mode. During our last visit to Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., in December we ventured out on the Intracoastal Waterway. That is to say we stayed on the sidelines, to keep a safe distance from the actual Intracoastal Highway where boats speed by and create impressive wakes.


The full drying stretch

There’s a surprising amount of wildlife. On our trip we saw great blue herons, egrets, and even a dolphin. I tried to take a photo of the dolphin but it tricked me swimming in random directions during 20-25 second dives before re-emerging. I was much more successful with a cormorant perched on a pole with its wings stretched and exposed to the sun. Apparently cormorants need to dry their plumage because they do not have oil in their skin to protect their feathers from getting wet like ducks and other water birds do.

Cormorant's green eyes

Cormorants have intense green eyes

I am a casual bird watcher and didn’t know  much about cormorants. Someone had recently mentioned that cormorants have intense green eyes. This can be seen when the photo is enlarged. When reading about cormorants I learned that the green part is the iris. The extremely constricted pupil is as small as the head of a pin and is hardly visible in my photo. Many other diving birds (e.g. penguins, loons, grebes) also have intensely colored eyes, in all cases due to a combined effect of iris color and constricted pupil. The pupil dilates to a large aperture in the low-light conditions underwater. Unfortunately I don’t have photos to prove that statement.

One Response to “A bird’s guide to drip-drying”

  1. karel Says:

    Very interesting these observations. Never knew your are birdwatchers.

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