When cormorants go fishing: the differing costs of hunting for sedentary and motile prey

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Cormorants hunt both benthic (sedentary) and pelagic (motile) prey but it is not known if the energy costs of foraging on these prey differ. We used respirometry to measure the costs of diving in double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) foraging either for sedentary (fish pieces) or motile (juvenile salmon) prey in a deep dive tank. Short dives for sedentary prey were more expensive than dives of similar duration for motile prey (e.g. 20% higher for a 10s dive) whereas the reverse was true for long dives (i.e. long dives for motile prey were more expensive than for sedentary prey). Across dives of all durations, the foraging phase of the dive was more expensive when the birds hunted motile prey, presumably due to pursuit costs. The period of descent in all the dives undertaken appears to have been more expensive when the birds foraged on sedentary prey, probably due to a higher swimming speed during this period.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)574-576
Number of pages3
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number5
Early online date10 Jul 2007
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2007


  • respirometry, cormorant, foraging, energetics, prey, diving