Double-Crested Cormorant

I first discovered the Double Crested Cormorant when I came upon a rookery tree in a city park.  The chicks were half grown and were making quite a racket as their parents arrived to feed them!  It was fascinating to watch the dexterity of their webbed feet, and how they were able to strongly grip the tree branches. Double-Crested Cormorant|Los Angeles Arboretum|Arcadia, CA I didn’t know that birds with webbed feet could perch in trees, let alone nest there! The cormorant’s name is derived through French from the Latin words meaning “sea crow”, since they are found mostly around the ocean.  However, unlike other cormorants, you might find the Double Crested Cormorant inland near rivers and lakes.  It is an interesting bird to watch and is easy to capture in a photograph.

Description

You can tell the Double-Crested Cormorant from other cormorants because its face skin and throat is yellow-orange year around.  It has turquoise eyes surrounded by beads. During breeding its feathers simmer with green and shades of bronze and it will develop a tuft of white feathers which curve back from the eyes on both sides of the head.  A juvenile Double-Crested Cormorant is brown above and lighter below with a pale upper breast and neck.

Range and Habitat

The Double-Crested Cormorant is common throughout North America and is found along both coasts of the United States.

Behavior

It is an excellent diver. It makes long dives where it will chase and capture its prey in its expandable throat pouch.  Smaller fish are swallowed under the water but when the cormorant surfaces with a larger fish, it will flip it, and swallow the fish head first!  In the Far East it used to be common for fishermen to capture a cormorant and tie a thin rope around the cormorant’s neck and use them to catch fish.  In flight, it has a distinctive kinked neck and has long, pointed wings.  Groups of Double Crested Cormorants are often found cooperating and fishing with White Pelicans.  They are social birds and hang out in groups. You will see them with their wings spread, drying their feathers in the sun. Cormorants don’t have well developed oil glands like other birds which would keep their feathers waterproofed.  On the plus side, this lack of oil glands actually helps them in underwater swimming.

Breeding & Nesting

The breeding courtship can last about 3-4 weeks.  The male makes low guttural grunts, tosses his head back on his rump, and flops his wings.  He romantically offers the female a branch.  When she coyly takes the branch, they mate.  Mates are greeted by a gaping, bright indigo blue mouth.  The pair mimics each other and makes loud (booming) declarations of love.  The male brings the material for the nest and the female builds it in a tree with other cormorants.  The female lays 3-5 eggs and both parents care for the young.  The chicks stay with the parents about 40 days.

Double-Crested Cormorant Photo Gallery