The objectives of this study were to describe causes of morbidity and mortality in a breeding colony of double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) on DoréLake (Saskatchewan, Canada), and to determine cause-specific mortality rates of juvenile birds. Morbidity and mortality were monitored every third day during the breeding season from 1994 to 1996 from inside a tunnel-and-blind system. Affected eggs and birds were collected for examination and diagnosis. The cause of mortality was determined for 105 eggs, 178 nestlings (≤4-wk-old), 1393 post-nestling chicks (>4-wk-old), and 10 adults. The main causes of mortality were infertility or embryonal death, avian predation, displacement of eggs and chicks from the nest, starvation from sibling competition, Newcastle disease, coyote predation, human-induced suffocation, and entrapment. In 49% of the cases, avian predation and displacement from the nest of eggs or nestlings was associated with human disturbance. Thirty-six nestlings, 40 post-nestling chicks, and three adults were examined for the presence of parasites. Contracaecum spiculigerum was found in the proventriculus; Amphimerus elongatus in the liver; Piagetiella incomposita in the gular pouch; Eidmanniella pellucida, Pectinopygus farallonii, and Ceratophyllus lari in the plumage; and Theromyzon sp. in the nasal and oral cavity. Contracaecum spiculigerum was associated with ulcerative gastritis, A. elongatus with multifocal hepatitis and bile duct hyperplasia, and P. incomposita with ulcerative stomatitis, but these lesions were not considered fatal. Other diseases included beak deformity, abnormal rotation of the carpal joint, hypopigmentation, and eye loss. Overall mortality of cormorant chicks between hatching and the end of the breeding season varied from 25 to 48%. The most important causes of mortality were Newcastle disease, which killed 21% of hatched chicks in 1995, sibling competition (maximum 12% in 1994), and coyote predation (2% in 1994).
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Vol. 35 • No. 2