Breeding Bird Atlas 2 Additional Accounts


Great Cormorant

Phalacrocorax carbo

If we can take Thomas Nuttall’s word for it, the Cormorant, as it was known (without any qualifying adjective attached to its name) could be seen “breeding on the islands, near the mouth of the harbor” (Peabody 1839) of Boston in the 1830s. Later reports, from the 1880s, placed them as breeders at Nahant, but by the early twentieth century not only had their alleged breeding activity been curtailed but the species had become scarce throughout the year in Massachusetts. Historically most often associated with winter by Bay State bird observers, this species’ population gradually diminished under heavy gunfire on its Canadian breeding grounds. By the 1920s, Edward Howe Forbush claimed that one could occasionally see Great Cormorants on the Salvages off Rockport, “but often it may be looked for in vain” (Forbush 1925). Recolonization of some of the Canadian breeding sites was taking place at that same time, however, and the Great Cormorant’s population slowly rejuvenated as the twentieth century rolled on. By the time of Atlas 1 Great Cormorants were common only as winter visitors along the Massachusetts coast. In Atlas 2, Great Cormorants were sighted in 2 blocks in Boston Harbor during Safe Dates but unfortunately left behind only speculation concerning their activities in the state during the breeding season.