many as 19,000 double-breasted and pelagic cormorants are hanging out at East
Sand Island, a tiny dredge spoil island in the lower Columbia River estuary, as
of the end of July. Some are mating but only about 500 are exhibiting nesting
behaviors, far fewer at this time of year than is normal.
why culling, harassing and egg oiling of the birds and their nests was
suspended by Wildlife Services, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ contractor,
April 27, after just 248 birds were shot, and has not resumed because the
cormorants have yet to settle down to significant nesting activity.
Corps has said that as many as 40 eagles harassed the sea birds in June,
keeping them from nesting on the island and driving them to other areas, such
as local bridges, Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor.
is the third year of culling for the Corps and the second year in a row that
the birds have been late to nesting, requiring the Corps to suspend its
operations designed to reduce the number of breeding pairs in the lower river.
Cormorants feed on juvenile salmon and steelhead, some of which are listed
under the federal Endangered Species Act.
year culling was suspended in mid-May and Wildlife Services didn’t resume until
October 3. By mid-July last year some 15,300 cormorants were seen “loafing” on
the island. By August about 23,000 were on the island and by September many
were rebuilding nests and laying eggs. Still, the agency managed to cull nearly
3,000 of the cormorants in 2016, almost all of those by the end of October.
CBB, October 14, 2016, “Cormorant Culling From Boats Resumes In Lower Columbia
Estuary, Will Continue Through October,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437748.aspx)
the Corps is hesitant for now in saying that its cormorant management program
has led to a possible collapse of what may have been the largest cormorant
colony in the world, nor is it certain whether culling could resume this year,
as it did last year.
our recent observations of what appear to be nesting attempts, we cannot say
that the colony has ‘collapsed’ for this season,” said Corps spokesperson Karim
Delgado. “We are waiting for further information from our field crew and
coordination with the adaptive management team — including biologists with
USFWS — before drawing conclusions about the fate of the colony, the ongoing
breeding season and potential management actions later this year.
detailed in our management plan, we are continually adapting our management
actions to the best and most current information available to us. We are as
interested as the rest of the public in understanding how the recent nest
attempts will develop for the remainder of the breeding season.”
Audubon Society of Portland disagrees and has for two years now claimed that
the double-crested cormorant colony is collapsing.
organization sent a letter in June to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which
has issued three annual predation permits to the Corps, urging the Service to
withdraw the permit and terminate the project.
Service’s response said it is aware of what is happening with the cormorants in
the estuary and is working with the Corps to monitor and manage the situation.
CBB, July 7, 2017, “Corps Continues Suspension Of Culling Salmon-Eating
Cormorants In Estuary,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439223.aspx)
program to cull and oil nests, as well has other hazing activities to otherwise
discourage the presence of cormorants in the lower Columbia River estuary is
designed to protect migrating threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead
smolts by reducing the cormorant population that feed upon them. It is an
action called for by reasonable and prudent alternative 46 of the 2014
biological opinion for Columbia River salmon and steelhead.
Corps’ goal is a double-crested cormorant colony size that represents an
acceptable level of predation on juvenile salmonids and a more balanced
ecosystem overall, Delgado said.
is determined by our ability to support a localized colony of double-crested
cormorants while minimizing the potential for expansion to levels that would
hurt the chances of survival for salmonids protected under the Endangered
Species Act,” he said.
would mean a cormorant colony at East Sand Island of between 5,380 and 5,939
breeding pairs, while modifying the island so that it would support the smaller
the recovery to a breeding colony is slow this year.
late June, about 12 bald eagles were present and about 7,000 to 9,000 birds
clustered along the shoreline, according to the Corps’ June 26 – 30 report.
Some 3,500 cormorants were also seen on the Astoria-Megler Bridge, with 722
nests. The Lewis & Clark Bridge that crosses the Youngs River in Astoria
had 125 nests with chicks ranging from 10 to 30 days old.
Corps’ July 3 – 7 report found only 2,000 to 3,000 cormorants on the island and
the Astoria-Megler Bridge had about 7,000 birds and an additional 47nests,
bringing the total to 769 nests on the bridge. The chicks were 35 to 40 days
count on East Sand Island July 10 rose slightly to 3,000 to 3,500 cormorants.
The bridge had 6,000 adults and 834 nests, according to the July 10 – 14
count on the island was about 6,000 cormorants on July 19 and rose to about
6,500 July 21. About 500 double-breasted and 1,200 Brandt’s cormorants
displayed breeding behavior. Four bald eagles were seen in the area, but only
one near the island.
number of nests on the Astoria-Megler Bridge dropped to 787. “Nest observations
show chicks with asynchronous age structures, with some birds very young and
downy, while others are mobile and ready to fledge,” the weekly report said.
Some 147 nests were seen on the Lewis & Clark Bridge.
the last week of July the number of cormorants on the island rose to 19,700 and
many were nest building nests (about 500) and breeding. No eagles were seen.
survey at the Astoria-Megler Bridge counted about 4,500 to 5,000 cormorants
roosting on the bridge the evening of July 23. During that evening and the
following morning observers saw double-crested cormorants “commuting to the
bridge mostly from downstream and most birds departed the bridge in the morning
and moved downstream.” Nest numbers dropped to 654 active nests.
Corps’ cormorant management timeline is at http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/environment/cormorants/.
June 16, 2017, “With Cormorant Nesting On East Sand Island Stalled, Boat-Based
Shooting Of Birds Suspended,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439105.aspx
April 28, 2017, “Third Year Of Shooting Salmon-Eating Cormorants, Oiling Nests:
Goal Is To Kill 2,409 Birds,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438803.aspx
CBB, September 9, 2016, “Court Allows Continued Culling Of Cormorants In
Columbia Estuary To Reduce Predation On Salmonids,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437461.aspx
August 5, 2016, “Court Hears Oral Arguments On Killing Estuary Cormorants To
Protect Juvenile Salmonids,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437255.aspx
July 1, 2016, “Plaintiffs Press Case Against Cormorant Culling In Court; 2,394
Birds Shot So Far This Year,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437040.aspx
June 17, 2016, “Is Salmon/Steelhead BiOp Driving Cormorant Culling? Not
Necessarily Says Corps” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436943.aspx
June 2, 2016, “Estuary Cormorants Abandon Nest, Eggs After 'Significant
Disturbance;' Audubon Blames Feds' Hazing,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436828.aspx
May 13, 2016, “Corps More Than Two-Thirds Complete In Killing Over 3,000
Estuary Salmonid-Eating Cormorants,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436716.aspx
April 1, 2016, “For Second Year, Corps Issued Permit To Cull Cormorants In
Lower Columbia; Allows Killing 3,216 Birds,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436360.aspx