Double-Crested Cormorants are perhaps the most skilled fishing birds in the country. They dive deep and long for fish and eels, swiftly prowling the murkiness with crackling blue eyes, their muscular legs pumping big webbed feet simultaneously.
But, they have a related quirk that puzzles people: they spend significant time doing what looks like praying to the sun with outstretched wings.
It was once thought that a lack of preening oil created a need to air out their wet feathers. But, recent research shows that, unlike most other birds, Cormorants’ outer feathers are designed (“morphologically adapted”) to absorb water and repel air bubbles. This adaptation significantly reduces the problem of buoyancy underwater.
Thus, Cormorant feathers get wetter than those of other water birds and need to be warmed and air-blown. (Brooklin, Maine)