Photo: Cristi Tombari/Great Backyard Bird Count Participant

Double-crested Cormorant

Phalacrocorax auritus

This dark, long-bodied diving bird floats low in the water with its thin neck and bill raised; perches upright near water with wings half-spread to dry. The Double-crested (which rarely looks noticeably crested in the field) is the most generally distributed cormorant in North America, and the only one likely to be seen inland in most areas.
Conservation status Population has had ups and downs. Probably long-term decline (because of persecution at nesting colonies) until about 1920s, then gradual increase until 1950s. Numbers dropped again through 1960s, probably owing to effects of persistent pesticides. After DDT was banned in 1972, populations began increasing again, still increasing and expanding range through the present day. In some regions, wildlife management agencies have culled some nesting populations because of concerns that they birds would crowd out other colonial waterbirds.
Family Cormorants
Habitat Coasts, bays, lakes, rivers. Very adaptable, may be found in almost any aquatic habitat, from rocky northern coasts to mangrove swamps to large reservoirs to small inland ponds. Nests in trees near or over water, on sea cliffs, or on ground on islands.
This dark, long-bodied diving bird floats low in the water with its thin neck and bill raised; perches upright near water with wings half-spread to dry. The Double-crested (which rarely looks noticeably crested in the field) is the most generally distributed cormorant in North America, and the only one likely to be seen inland in most areas.
Photo Gallery
  • adults, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • juvenile
  • immature (2nd yr)
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • immatures (2nd yr)
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by diving from surface and swimming underwater, propelled by feet (may sometimes use wings as well). May forage singly or in groups. May forage in clear or muddy water, at mid to upper levels of water more often than near bottom.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 1-7. Bluish white, becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by both sexes, 25-33 days, typically 28-30. Young: both parents feed the nestlings. After 3-4 weeks, young may leave ground nests and wander through colony, but return to nest to be fed. Usually first fly at about 5-6 weeks, probably independent at 9-10 weeks.


Young

both parents feed the nestlings. After 3-4 weeks, young may leave ground nests and wander through colony, but return to nest to be fed. Usually first fly at about 5-6 weeks, probably independent at 9-10 weeks.

Diet

Fish and other aquatic life. Diet varies with season and place, includes very wide variety of fish, also crabs, shrimp, crayfish, frogs, salamanders, eels; sometimes snakes, mollusks, plant material.


Nesting

Usually first breeds at age of 3 years. Nests in colonies, sometimes mixed with wading birds and others. Male displays to female on water by splashing with wings, swimming in zigzags, diving and bringing up pieces of weeds. At nest site, male displays by crouching and vibrating wings while calling. Nest: Site is near water on cliff ledge, on ground on island, or at any height in tree. Nest (built mostly by female, with materials brought by male) platform of sticks and debris, lined with finer materials.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Some in Florida and on Pacific Coast may be permanent resident; most are migratory. Migrates in flocks, often following coastlines or rivers. Most travel probably by day.

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Migration

Some in Florida and on Pacific Coast may be permanent resident; most are migratory. Migrates in flocks, often following coastlines or rivers. Most travel probably by day.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Deep guttural grunts.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Cormorants Upright-perching Water Birds

Double-crested Cormorant

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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