Behavioural strategies of cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae) foraging under challenging light conditions

Craig White, Patrick Butler, David Gremillet, Graham Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)


Diving is indicative of foraging in cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae). We have investigated a range of parameters associated with diving in Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo to provide insight into the bases of cormorant predatory strategies. We hypothesize that if vision is important in cormorant foraging behaviour, and if they are not constrained by the position of their prey in the water column, then diving behaviour will be modulated primarily in response to the diel variation in ambient light levels. Specifically, we propose that cormorants forage at shallower depths when light levels are low, and more deeply when light levels are high. We provide evidence that this is the case. We recorded the occurrence of cormorant diving behaviour using implanted data loggers and recorded ambient light levels and water temperature using leg-mounted loggers in a sample of free-living Great Cormorants in Greenland. Our results show that dives are shallower at the beginning and end of each day when light levels are lower. We suggest that these data support the hypothesis that cormorant foraging is visually-guided even though recent evidence has shown that their underwater visual acuity is poor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-239
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • Greenland
  • vision
  • predation
  • diving
  • Phalacrocorax


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