Cormorants are a familiar sight on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. These birds have been spotted randomly on Upper Saranac Lake (USL) over the last four to five years, but only during migratory seasons. This year may be the first year cormorants have been spotted throughout the summer — and now in greater numbers.
Have you seen cormorants on Upper Saranac Lake? Known to be a coastal bird, they were first noticed in Lake Champlain in the early 70s. More commonly, they have been showing up on interior lakes of the Adirondacks. They would be of concern if they were to take up residence in the USL watershed.
The cormorant is a large, black-colored seabird with a body length of approximately 30 inches and a wingspan of 45 inches. Cormorants typically travel in large groups and, as a result, they can have a noticeable impact on their ecosystem. They are known to eat large amounts of fish and can have damaging impacts on vegetation because of their acidic guano. On Lake Champlain, as their population exploded to over 20,000, islands were taken over by their nesting sites. What was once a diverse and thriving community of birds is now a monoculture dominated by the cormorant.
Adirondack Explorer contributor Tim Rowland wrote about the cormorant population surging on Lake Champlain and their destructive nature in 2018; Upper Saranac Foundation Lake Manager Guy Middleton was interviewed for the article.