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Devil’s Cormorant by Richard J. King

Published by the University of New Hampshire Press price £23.00

ISBN 978-1-61168-225-0 - 252 pages hardback

This is a fascinating book about several species of Cormorants around the world. The idea of the book is to show how man in his lack of wisdom have taken a ‘black’ bird and turned it into a monster. The first chapter is trying to show how some cultures have used the skills of the Cormorant to their benefit with the fish being brought to a boat and dropped for the fisherman to use as his food. Where falconry was brought to the world from China, ‘fishing’ Cormorants also became a popular hobby for some western countries. Both French and English nobility took part with the ‘muse’ [Cormorant House] for James 1 of England [James V1 of Scotland] was built where the House of Parliament now stands!

Sadly the use of Cormorants for fishing died out in the west and horrific tales of mass slaughter became the norm for many countries as the bird was only seen as a ‘glutton’ for fish. The slaughter on Henderson Island in the Great Lakes showed how mislead some people can be with an introduced fish called the round goby which feeds on fish eggs being the main prey [92%] where the small mouth bass which the folk were trying to save was only 0.1%! With the little fish eating the bass eggs how misguided could they be!

Even the guano of the bird in Peru was making a country multimillion funds which should have protected the bird. But instead, over fishing by humans and ‘El Nino’ has caused the population to crash from over 4 million down to 400,000. Out of the 30 species known 1 is extinct, 1 is critical endangered, 2 are endangered, 4 are near threatened with 22 least concerned. Millions of birds have been killed in recent years with France killing 40,000 a year. Britain’s hate campaign is run by the Angling Trust.

I enjoyed this book a lot and if there was any disappointment it was that Richard did not push the benefits of the bird which are many. Maybe this book should be the start of a series where man is seen as the villain wrongfully accusing so many birds for their effect on the planet!!


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