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Double-crested Cormorant

From Opus

Photo by Steve MessickSt. Vrain SWA, Weld County, Colorado, USA, March 2004
Photo by Steve Messick
St. Vrain SWA, Weld County, Colorado, USA, March 2004
Phalacrocorax auritus


[edit] Identification

L. 74–91 cm (29–36 in)
W. up to 132 cm (52 in)
Adults: This is a large, black bird that may have green sheen in some lighting. It has a long tail, a chin patch of bare orange skin, and white double head plumes for a short period during breeding. Eastern birds are duller.
Juveniles: Variable plumage; overall dark brown, with paler face, foreneck, and breast.

Immature Double-crested Cormorant. Photo by Daddylion South-east Michigan, USA
Immature Double-crested Cormorant.
Photo by Daddylion
South-east Michigan, USA

[edit] Similar Species

The Brandt's Cormorant lacks the orange chin, and has a shorter tail. The Neotropic Cormorant only rarely appears as far north as the southern tip of Texas; it is a bird of southern latitudes.

[edit] Distribution

A very common and widespread species, it winters anywhere that is ice-free along both coasts of North America, as far north as southern Alaska (on the west coast) and southern New England (on the east coast). It can be found as far south as Mexico and the Bahamas.

It migrates from the coldest parts of its breeding range, such as eastern Canada, and has occurred in Europe as a very rare vagrant, for example in Great Britain, Ireland and the Azores.

[edit] Taxonomy

Photo by fuzzheadRichland, Washington, USA, October 2009
Photo by fuzzhead
Richland, Washington, USA, October 2009

[edit] Subspecies

There are 4 subspecies[1]:


  • P. a. auritus:
  • Gulf of St. Lawrence to Cape Cod and locally west to Utah
  • P. a. floridanus:


  • P. a. albociliatus:
  • P. a. cincinatus:

A 5th subspecies, heuretus is not recognised by all authorities[2]

[edit] Habitat

Oceans and fresh water ponds and lakes. This is the only cormorant in the US that is commonly found on fresh water.

[edit] Behaviour

[edit] Movement

In flight, note crooked neck. Flies in wavy, loose flocks.
The Double-crested Cormorant swims low in the water, often with just its neck and head visible, and dives from the surface. It uses its feet for propulsion and is able to dive to a depth of 1.5–7.5 m (5–25 feet) for 30–70 seconds.

After diving, it spends long periods standing with its wings outstretched to allow them to dry, since they are not fully waterproofed.

This species flies low over the water, with its bill tilted slightly upward, sometimes leaving the colony in long, single-file lines.

[edit] References

  1. Clements, JF. 2011. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to August 2011. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019. Spreadsheet available at
  2. Avibase

[edit] External Links


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