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Double-crested Cormorant

Phalacrocorax auritus

Cormorants are often seen flying low over the water. (Paul Sullivan/Flickr)
Cormorants are often seen flying low over the water. (Paul Sullivan/Flickr)

The double-crested cormorant is a large, black water bird with a long, hooked bill. It lives year-round on the Chesapeake Bay’s shallow and open waters.


  • Large, black body
  • Long bill with a small hook at the end. The cormorant holds its bill tilted upward when swimming.
  • Orange chin patch that is squared and has no feathers
  • Long neck and tail
  • Young have a pale throat and chest with a brownish back and wings
  • Grows to 32 inches long with a wingspan of 52 inches


  • Lives along the coast and on islands, lakes and rivers
  • Often seen perched on rocks, piers and pilings with its wings spread in the air. It does this to dry its feathers and regulate its body temperature.


  • Found year-round throughout the Chesapeake Bay


  • Eats mostly small fish, but will also feed on aquatic invertebrates such as insects, crustaceans and amphibians
  • Dives underwater to capture its prey in its long, hooked bill
  • Adults eat an average of one pound of fish per day


  • Gulls, crows, blue jays, raccoons, red foxes and coyotes prey on cormorant eggs and chicks


  • Noticeable crook in neck while flying
  • Flies in lines or V-shaped formations, similar to geese
  • Often seen flying low over the water


  • Almost entirely silent
  • Sometimes makes deep, pig-like grunts in the nesting colony

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Breeds mostly in the Great Lakes region and the Midwest into Canada
  • Nests in colonies with other cormorants

Other Facts:

  • Eyes are adapted to see both above and under the water
  • Can be confused with the common loon. You can distinguish a double-crested cormorant by its hooked bill, which it holds tilted upward.
  • The double-crested cormorant is the most abundant and widespread cormorant in North America. An estimated two million double-crested cormorants live in North America.

Sources and Additional Information:

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