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Spectacled cormorant, Phalacrocorax perspicillatus

Spectacled cormorant, Phalacrocorax perspicillatus

Spectacled cormorant, Phalacrocorax perspicillatus
The Spectacled cormorant (Phalacrocorax perspicillatus), a large, nearly flightless seabird lived
on a few remote islands at the western end of the Aleutian chain. This species was first identified
in 1741 by the naturalist George Steller, who traveled with the explorer Vitus Bering on his
voyage of exploration and discovery of Northern Pacific Ocean.

Steller discovered the large, black birds while shipwrecked on a tiny island in the western
Aleutians. This island was later named Bering Island because Vitus Bering and many of his
crew died there during the long winter after the shipwreck. In midwinter, the stranded sailors,
Steller among them, began killing the slow-moving and unwary cormorants for food.

Steller wrote, "They weighed 12-14 pounds, so that one single bird was sufficient for 3
starving men." Like other cormorants, the spectacled cormorant fed on fish.
Almost nothing else is known about this extinct bird.

Steller was the only naturalist to see the spectacled cormorant alive. Others learned of the
species through Steller's writing and brought specimens into museums in 1837. The population
of spectacled cormorants declined quickly as whalers, fur traders and Aleut Natives killed
the birds for food and feathers.

By 1850, fewer than 100 years after Steller first saw these seabirds, the spectacled cormorant
became extinct. Steller's records, six specimens, and two skeletons are the only evidence
that this species existed fewer than 200 years ago.

Based upon "Alaska Species Now Extinct", Alaska Department of Fish and Game - Wildlife Conservation

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