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Species Description

Double-crested Cormorant

Phalacrocorax auritus


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Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Phalacrocoracidae

Description

Overall, both males and females are black, with an orange throat patch. Behind the eyes, there are black tufts on eastern birds; these tufts are white on western birds. First-year birds are more brown than black, and are pale on the sides of the head, throat, neck, and chest. 81 cm (32 in) long; 132 cm (52 in) wing span.

Life Cycle

The Double-crested Cormorant breeds from late December through October, peaking from early March to mid-June. Cormorants are colonial nesters. The male and female build a nest of sticks, twigs, and seaweed in trees or shrubs. The female lays 2-7 (usually 3-4) eggs, which she and the male incubate for 25-29 days. The young are altricial. The adults brood them continuously for 12 days, and care for them for 35-42 days after hatching.

Natural History

This species spends time in both fresh and brackish water habitats, using lakes, rivers, swamps, and bays. The Double-crested Cormorant has eyes adapted for underwater vision, which help make it an efficient predator. Its main food is fish, which it chases through the water.

Range

The range of the Double-crested Cormorant includes most of the coastal areas of the United States, the Mississippi River flood plain, and larger lakes in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes areas. In Georgia, breeding populations occur near the coast and wintering populations occur in the southeastern portion of the state.

Conservation Status

This species is state-listed as Endangered in Missouri and Kentucky, and as Of Special Concern in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Similar Species

Species appearing similar to the Double-crested Cormorant in the eastern United States are the Neotropical (Olivaceous) Cormorant and the Great Cormorant. The Olivaceous Cormorant is smaller than the Double-crested Cormorant, being only 66 cm (26 in) in length. It has a white border around the throat pouch and lacks ear tufts. The Great Cormorant, 91 cm (36 in) in length, is larger than the Double-crested Cormorant. It has white patches on its flanks (the areas on its sides above its legs), a yellow throat pouch, and white patches bordering the throat pouch.