The Upper Mississippi River is an important habitat corridor for migratory birds and other wildlife, and it supports an important commercial and sport fishery. A study was initiated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1991 to describe Double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) distribution and abundance on the Upper Mississippi River throughout the year to better understand the possible impacts of cormorants on fish resources and populations of other piscivorous birds. Double-crested Cormorants were common breeders and abundant during migration on the Upper Mississippi River during the 1940s. Numbers of cormorants declined in the 1960s and 1970s along the Upper Mississippi River as they did in other parts of the United States. In 1992, 418 cormorant pairs were estimated to have nested in four colonies on the Upper Mississippi River, and less than 7,000 cormorants were estimated to have migrated along the river during the fall and spring of 1991 and 1992. Recent public concern for fish resources has grown with a perceived growth of the local cormorant population. Migrating cormorants collected on the Upper Mississippi River took Gizzard Shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) primarily, but chicks were fed a wide variety of fish species.
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Double-crested cormorants along the upper Mississippi River