Sunday, January 13, 2008

Double-crested Cormorant--Phalacrocorax auritus

Double-crested Cormorant in breeding plumage at Irvine Regional Park

When I was a child, I read the book "The Story of Ping" about a duck's misadventures that include a small section on Ping encountering cormorants used for fishing. It fascinated me, and I still find cormorants of all kinds very interesting. You can read "The Story of Ping" online here.

Double-crested Cormorant at Lake Balboa in the San Fernando Valley.

Double-crested Cormorants are black birds that can be found just about anywhere there are fish: oceans, wetlands, lakes, streams, channels, ponds and more. This is one bird no one is concerned about. Double-crested Cormorants are growing at a rate of about 2% per year in North America, and about 22% in the Great Lakes area.

Immature Double-crested Cormorant at Irvine Regional Park.

Double-crested Cormorants are dark-colored birds that dive for food. Mostly for fish, but also for other aquatic animals and insects. They have hooked bills and orange-colored skin around the base of the bill and at the top part of the neck. The lores are also orange. They have beautiful turquoise-colored eyes, and black, webbed feet set far back on their body to better propel them through the water. In flight, you can see its bent neck--unlike other cormorants. In breeding plumage, Double-crested Cormorants have a dark or light tuft of feathers over their eyes that looks like two eyebrows growing way wild. The Immature is lighter with a very pale chest. (Page down for video.)

Great You-Tube Video of a Double-Crested Cormorant under water.

Double-crested Cormorants live fish close to the shore and when you are on the beach you can see them bobbing up and down in the waves. Unlike other cormorants, Double-crested Cormorants also go inland to lakes, streams, channels, and as I said above, any bit of water that has fish.

Double-crested Cormorants drying their wings.

Double-crested Cormorants do not have oil to waterproof their feathers. Because of that, they move faster, ride lower in the water than other water birds, and have to dry their wings after swimming. One of the ways to id a cormorant of any kind is how low they ride in the water or that they are holding their wings out to dry.

Immature Double-crested Cormorant drying its wings at Craig Park in Fullerton.

I like watching Double-crested Cormorants. The one above walked around while it dried its wings. There is a chance that this was a mating display, but since this is an immature I doubt it. (Page down for video.)

Canadian video about Double-Crested Cormorants

They are very easily seen and are gaining a reputation for taking fish from commercial fishermen. Are they gaining the reputation unfairly? The fishermen insist it is true, but studies say it is not a great impact because of the type of fish they take and the location that Double-crested Cormorants take them from. Permits are issued to "take" or hunt Double-crested Cormorants if damage can be shown, and the US Fish and Wildlife has ways of reducing the population in areas where they have become a nuisance.

Immature Double-crested Cormorant at Lake Balboa.

Double-crested Cormorant male and female look alike. Only they know for sure. They nest in colonies and sometimes the young group together in groups called creches. The main breeding season is April through August. The courtship involves dancing in the water and displaying the of the orange throat sac (or gular sac). The throat sac is also used for cooling. They are monogamous. Nests are built either on the ground or in trees. (Page Down for Video.)

You Tube slides of Double-crested Cormorants set to music.

Double-crested Cormorants may feed and rest with large numbers of Double-crested Cormorants or with other water birds such as gulls, American White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans, terns, and Black Skimmers.

Double-crested Cormorants

There are five subspecies of Double-crested Cormorants. There are 40 plus species of cormorants in the world. They are related to Pelicans, Gannets, and Boobies.

Double-crested Cormorant swimming.

Double-crested Cormorants look similar to loons in the water, but the loon has a pointed bill, not a hooked one. Once you get familiar with both species, it will be easy to tell them apart.

Page Down for Video

You Tube Video of a Double-Crested Cormorant drying its feathers.

Although United States fishermen may feel the Double-crested Cormorant is stealing their fish, ironically the cormorant has had over a thousand years of positive relationships with Asian fishermen.

Double-crested Cormorants at Huntington Central Park.

In both Japan and China, cormorant fishing was common and is still practiced. Watch these videos to see the partnership between man and cormorants that existed and in some areas still exists in Asia.

Page Down for Video.

Video of Cormorant Fishing in Japan

A Different style of Cormorant fishing in China.

So when you are out birding in Orange County, California, look for the Double-crested Cormorant. It is one interesting bird.

OC Birder Girl Links

The Wild Ducks of Orange County

Odd Ducks

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Carr Park in Huntington Beach

Central Park in Huntington Beach

Mason Regional Park

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Tewinkle Park -- Costa Mesa

Newport Bay Ecological Reserve

External Links and Resources

All About Birds: Double-crested Cormorant

Usual thorough, detailed article about the Double-crested Cormorant with information about
Cool Facts, Description, Similar Species, Sound, Range, Habitat, Food, Behavior, Reproduction, Conservation Status, and Other Names.

Fairfax County School District: Double Crested Cormorants

Really good pictures. Good short text.

Internet Bird Collection: Double-crested Cormorants

Wonderful collection of high quality videos of bird species form around the world. There are 14 videos of Double-crested Cormorants.

Nature Works: Double-crested Cormorant

Article on the Double-crested Cormorant.

Animal Diversity Web: Double-crested Cormorants

Detailed information. Good site.


Good article that answers questions about Double-crested Cormorants in general and about Double-crested Cormorants specifically in the Great Lakes area of the United States. Lots about the question of whether or not Double-crested Cormorants are reducing populations of fish for anglers and fishermen.

US Department of Fish and Wildlife: Double-crested Cormorants

Articles on management.

US Geological Survey: Double-crested Cormorant

Short article on the Double-crested Cormorant. Includes identification tips.

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