U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service



http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5289-0373 Paul C. Burr

Date of this Version



Burr, P.S., J.L. Avery, G.M. Street, B.K. Strickland, and B.S. Dorr. 2020. Piscivorous bird use of aquaculture and natural water bodies in Mississippi. Journal of Wildlife Management 84(8):1560-1569.

doi: 10.1002/jwmg.21948


US gov't work


Double crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) and great egrets (Ardea alba) have an extensive history of human wildlife conflict with the aquaculture industry of western Mississippi, USA, due to

their depredation of cultured catfish (Ictalurus spp.). Although aquaculture is abundant, western Mississippi also contains naturally occurring water bodies that offer alternative forage opportunities to these species. How cormorants or egrets distribute themselves among these 2 foraging options is unknown, but it has been generally assumed each species uses aquaculture disproportionately more because of the high density of available prey. To test this assumption, we surveyed these species on aquaculture and naturally occurring water bodies using aerial surveys from October through April of 2015–2016, 2016–2017, and 2017–2018. We modeled the proportion of each species on aquaculture as a function of year, date, and weather-related variables using quasi binomial generalized linear models. Egrets used aquaculture consistently more than what was proportionally available to them and use was not influenced by any of the variables we measured. Proportional use of aquaculture by cormorants was lowest during October through January but steadily increased through April, indicating a distribution shift toward aquaculture in the months immediately prior to their migration. The highest proportional use of aquaculture by cormorants occurred in 2016, a year when lethal control measures were not allowed against cormorants. Conversely, the least proportion of cormorants on aquaculture was in 2015 when cormorants could be lethally controlled under authority of an Aquaculture Depredation Order. This trend highlights the potential influence of changes in mortality risk, caused by changes in policy regarding lethal take of cormorants, on cormorant distribution between foraging options