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The Devil’s Cormorant
A Natural History
Richard J. King

2013 • 360 pp. 21 illus., 2 maps 6 x 9"
Ecology & Environmental Studies / Natural History

$24.95 Paperback, 978-1-61168-699-9
$24.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-474-2

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

"Richard King's The Devil's Cormorant is a brilliant book. It is scientifically well-informed, serious, funny, and full of good stories...a post-modern ornithology."  Living Bird

A journey through the history, biology, and culture of the misunderstood cormorant

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.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

"Splendid and eclectic." —Environmental History

"Despite the subtitle, this is a work as much about human history and values, as it is about nature. King sees past the symbol and presents the real cormorant, living amidst real people. And one is left with this conclusion: Surely we need animals as symbols. But let’s not allow it to obscure the real, complicated, beautiful creatures among us." —Nature Conservancy

"King teases out this relationship from multiple perspectives--literary, historical, artistic, ornithological, political--in a book that is informative, personable, and fascinating."  —Birding

"Entertaining and thought-provoking. . . . Eloquent and expansive.”—

The Devil’s Cormorant combines natural history, social and economic impacts through a series of stories, each told with compassion and humour.”—British Birds

“They are in short amazing birds, and this book is a great insight into their character and ours.”—
SF Natural History Series

"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

“What is it about these bizarre, prehistoric-looking birds that evokes such powerful feelings of hatred—and love? Viewed as trash birds in need of extermination by many people and as sacred partners in the hunt by others, cormorants have rarely been looked at in an appreciative way, as one of the most fascinating groups of birds in the world. I’ll never view these birds the same way again.”
—Tim Gallagher, author of 
The Grail Bird and editor in chief of Living Bird magazine

“This book is delicious! It’s a fun read, informative, and eye-opening. I highly recommend it.” —Bernd Heinrich, author of Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death and Ravens in Winter


Winner of the Library Journal's Best of 2013 (2013)

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.

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 12:13:06 -0500