Behold the cormorant: silent, still, cruciform, and brooding; flashing, soaring, quick as a snake. Evolution has crafted the only creature on Earth that can migrate the length of a continent, dive and hunt deep underwater, perch comfortably on a branch or a wire, walk on land, climb up cliff faces, feed on thousands of different species, and live beside both fresh and salt water in a vast global range of temperatures and altitudes, often in close proximity to man. Long a symbol of gluttony, greed, bad luck, and evil, the cormorant has led a troubled existence in human history, myth, and literature.
The birds have been prized as a source of mineral wealth in Peru, hunted to extinction in the Arctic, trained by the Japanese to catch fish, demonized by Milton in Paradise Lost, and reviled, despised, and exterminated by sport and commercial fishermen from Israel to Indianapolis, Toronto to Tierra del Fuego. In The Devil's Cormorant, Richard King takes us back in time and around the world to show us the history, nature, ecology, and economy of the world's most misunderstood waterfowl.
Richard J King is senior lecturer in literature of the sea with the Maritime Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport. He is the author of Lobster.
"[...] I hope King’ s excellent semi-autobiographical account will lead to more sympathetic approaches to these impressive birds and less association with the Devil. It is an absorbing read."
– G. R. (Dick) Potts, Ibis 157, 2015
"[...] The Devil’s Cormorant has been researched thoroughly, and through Richard King’s travels and interviews, opinions are many and diverse, but all the stories are told in an absorbing way. Despite having an interest in cormorants, this is not a book that I would have been immediately inspired to pick up and read. However, I have really enjoyed reading it and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in natural history and its relationship with people."
– Stuart Newson, britishbirds.co.uk, 12-03-2014
"Thorough and authoritative as well as charming [...] King demonstrates his multidimensional expertise on matters relating to the sea in this excellent exploration of the world of cormorants."
– Library Journal
"Richard King has a rare knack for seeing the large in the little, showing how a rather obscure bird actually looms large in our lives. This book is his gift to us."
– Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and The View From Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World
"Before I read this marvelous, idiosyncratic book, I might have said I wasn't interested in cormorants. Now – I'll never not be interested."
– Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and Voyage of the Narwhal