An international team of researchers associated with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) recently fitted a South American sea bird with a small camera.
The researchers were stunned as they observed the imperial cormorant dive 150 feet underwater in 40 seconds, feeding on the ocean floor for 80 seconds where it caught a snakelike fish before returning to the surface.
This is the first time researchers were able to observe the amazing feeding techniques of these fascinating birds first-hand, which typically occur off the coast of Argentina.
The camera is attached to the bird’s back, so the view is of its head as it pumps its feet to swim deeper. When it finally reaches the ocean floor, the cormorant explores a vast area searching for food – eventually catching an elongated fish which it brings to the surface to eat.
The footage was shot in Punta León in Patagonia, Argentina, a coastal protected area supporting more than 3,500 pairs of imperial cormorants. A WCS scientific team, led by Dr. Flavio Quintana, has been studying the cormorants’ feeding behavior for the past ten years.
In recent years, the team has tracked over than 400 cormorants along the Patagonian Coast of Argentina using technological tools such as multi-channel archival tags and high resolution GPS-loggers. The data is used by researchers to help identify priority feeding locations, design new protected areas and further the understanding of environmental conditions that affect cormorant populations.