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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.

Appearance:

The double-crested cormorant grows to 32 inches in length with a wingspan of 52 inches. It has a large, black body, a long neck and tail, and an orange chin patch that is squared and has no feathers. Its long bill has a small hook on the end; it holds its bill tilted upward when swimming. Young cormorants have a pale throat and chest with a brownish back and wings.

Habitat:

Cormorants live along the coast and on islands, lakes and rivers. They are often seen perched on rocks, piers and pilings with its wings spread in the air; they do this to dry their feathers and regulate body temperature.

Range:

Found year-round throughout the Chesapeake Bay.

Feeding:

Cormorants eat mostly small fish, but will also feed on aquatic invertebrates such as insects, crustaceans and amphibians; an adult will eat an average of one pound of fish per day. They dive underwater to capture prey in their long, hooked bills.

Predators:

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

Flight:

The cormorant has a noticeable crook in its neck while flying. It flies in lines or V-shaped formations, similar to geese, and can often be seen flying low over the water.

Voice:

Almost entirely silent, cormorants will sometimes make deep, pig-like grunts in their nesting colonies.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Breeding occurs mostly in the Great Lakes region and the Midwest into Canada. They will nest 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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