The Devil’s Cormorant

A Natural History

Richard J. King

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.

Paper: $24.95
ISBN-13: 9781611686999
Pages: 360 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: August 5, 2014


  • 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
  • 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.

  • Entertaining and thought-provoking. . . . Eloquent and expansive.


About the Author

Richard J. King

Richard J. King is the author of five books of nonfiction about our relationship with the global ocean, including most recently Sailing Alone: A History. He wrote Ahab’s Rolling Sea: A Natural History of Moby-Dick, lauded in Science, Nature, and American Scholar; Lobster, which was acclaimed by the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal; and The Devil’s Cormorant: A Natural History, which was short-listed for the ASLE Creative Book Award and …

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