Double-crested Cormorant

Phalacrocorax auritus
Double-crested Cormorant specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A large (33 inches) waterbird, the Double-crested Cormorant is most easily identified by its black body and wings, long hooked bill, and orange chin patch. This species may be separated from the related Great Cormorant ( Phalacrocorax carbo) by that species’ larger size and large white chin patch, from the related Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) by that species smaller size and small white chin patch, and from the similar-looking Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) by that species’ longer neck and tail. Male and female Double-crested Cormorants are similar to one another in all seasons. The Double-crested Cormorant breeds in scattered locations along the Pacific coast of North America from Alaska to Baja California, along the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to Florida, in the northern Great Plains, and in the West Indies. Southern breeding populations tend to be non-migratory, while northern breeding populations migrate south to the coasts, the interior southeastern U.S., and Mexico. Small numbers may breed or winter outside this species’ main range where habitat is appropriate. Double-crested Cormorants inhabit a variety of freshwater and saltwater wetland habitats, including rivers, lakes, marshes, and flooded grasslands. This species nests in trees surrounding bodies of water, on small islands, or on abandoned man-made structures near water. Double-crested Cormorants primarily eat small fish. On large bodies of water across the continent, Double-crested Cormorants may be seen floating low in the water, occasionally diving underwater for long periods while pursuing prey. Like many cormorants, this species may also be seen perched on rocks or snags with its wings outstretched and feathers ruffled. This species lacks the oily feather coating used by other water birds to keep dry and maintain buoyancy, and it has been suggested that this behavior allows the birds to dry their wings. Double-crested Cormorants are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Common migrant along the Eastern Shore and tidewater areas of the Western Shore, from February through May and August through November. Often seen migrating in long chains. Occasional birds may be seen at any time of the year. Sexes are similar.

Specimen Information

The adult (on the left) was hatched at the Zoo.
Date: 4/29/1930
Collected By: National Zoological Park, Washington DC
Locality: National Zoological Park, Washington DC
Sex: Male
Catalog ID: 317134
The bird on the right has the lighter plumage of immature birds of this species.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species