Cormorants dive through the Polar night

D Gremillet, G Kuntz, C Gilbert, Anthony Woakes, Patrick Butler, Y Le Maho

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41 Citations (Scopus)


Most seabirds are visual hunters and are thus strongly affected by light levels. Dependence on vision should be problematic for species wintering at high latitudes, as they face very low light levels for extended periods during the Polar night. We examined the foraging rhythms of male great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) wintering north of the Polar circle in West Greenland, conducting the first year-round recordings of the diving activity in a seabird wintering at high latitudes. Dive depth data revealed that birds dived every day during the Arctic winter and did not adjust their foraging rhythms to varying day length. Therefore, a significant proportion of the dive bouts were conducted in the dark (less than 1 lux) during the Polar night. Our study underlines the stunning adaptability of great cormorants and raises questions about the capacity of diving birds to use non-visual cues to target fish.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-471
Number of pages3
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2005


  • data loggers
  • vision
  • foraging
  • arctic
  • seabird
  • year-round recording


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