Double-crested Cormorant

Bird of the Month: Double-crested Cormorant

By Hugh Jennings

PC: Mick Thompson (Double-crested Cormorant)

PC: Mick Thompson (Double-crested Cormorant)

Scientific Name: Phalacrocorax auritus

Length 32 in

Wingspan 52 in

AOU Band code DCCO

The Double-crested Cormorant (DCCO) is about 32" long and has a wing span of about 52". Its genus phalakros is from Greek for bald, and kora for crow or raven. The family includes only cormorants of which there are 30 in the world and 6 in North America. The species auritus is Latin for eared or crested and refers to the rarely seen tufts on the crown.

It is the only cormorant likely to be seen inland. Both sexes are essentially alike: large, black, with a long tail. They have a yellow-orange throat patch year-round. First-year birds are brown above, pale below, but usually palest on upper breast and neck. The DCCO is distinguished from Brandt’s Cormorants by more buoyant flight and flying with a kinked neck. They can be seen soaring high, using air currents to gain altitude and then coasting on a long glide. They may have trouble taking off from land and water. They often need to run along the water to gain speed.

The DCCO is found along either coast and on inland rivers and lakes wherever fish are plentiful. The birds feed by diving and swimming underwater, eating mostly fish. They may hold their wings out to dry after diving in the water. They nest on rocky islands, cliffs facing water, or stands of trees near water. The cormorants seen on freshwater lakes in our area are usually seen only from about October to April. During the spring and summer they are at nesting areas.

The DCCO nest in colonies. The nest is a platform of sticks and seaweed lined with leafy twigs and grass, and placed in a tree or on the ground. There are 2-7 pale blue eggs. Incubation is 24-29 days and the young fledge 35-42 days after hatching. The birds are silent away from the nest, but at the nest they can give a variety of deep croaks and grunts.