Photo: Rob Curtis/Vireo

Neotropic Cormorant

Phalacrocorax brasilianus

Found throughout the American tropics, this lanky diving bird is common in some areas near the Mexican border, and may be gradually extending its range north. Similar to the Double-crested Cormorant but a little smaller, and may be found with it, especially inland or in winter. Formerly called Olivaceous Cormorant.
Conservation status Texas population dropped sharply in 1950s and 1960s, possibly owing to effects of persistent pesticides, but since then has increased again in Texas and Louisiana. Also has been increasing and spreading north inland in the southwest and the Great Plains; first found nesting in New Mexico in the 1970s.
Family Cormorants
Habitat Tidal waters, lakes. In United States on warm southern waters, mostly fresh or brackish. Even in coastal regions, mainly on protected estuaries, rivers, or ponds, although may nest on coastal islands. May nest far inland in dead trees around reservoirs. In Latin America found in wide variety of inland and coastal areas, on both warm and cold waters.
Found throughout the American tropics, this lanky diving bird is common in some areas near the Mexican border, and may be gradually extending its range north. Similar to the Double-crested Cormorant but a little smaller, and may be found with it, especially inland or in winter. Formerly called Olivaceous Cormorant.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • juvenile
  • juvenile
  • adult, nonbreeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages by diving from surface and swimming underwater, propelled mostly by feet. Rarely plunges into water from air after prey. May forage in groups, birds beating water with wings to drive fish forward into shallows.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 1-5. Bluish white, becoming nest-stained. Incubation apparently by both sexes, averages about 25-30 days. Young: Both parents feed young. Age at first flight not well known, but young raised on islands able to swim and dive at 8 weeks, fed until 11th week, independent at 12 weeks.


Young

Both parents feed young. Age at first flight not well known, but young raised on islands able to swim and dive at 8 weeks, fed until 11th week, independent at 12 weeks.

Diet

Small fish. Feeds mostly on abundant small fish of shallow protected waters; typical prey about 2" long, up to about 5". Also eats tadpoles, frogs, aquatic insects. In wide range of tropical habitats, probably other prey as well.


Nesting

Breeds in colonies. Displays of male include sitting with tail raised, bill pointed up, while raising and lowering tips of folded wings. Both sexes display by stretching neck up, bill open, waving head back and forth. Nest: Site usually in live or dead bushes or trees, 3-25' above water; sometimes on ground on islands. Nest (probably built by both sexes) a solid platform of sticks, with depression at center lined with twigs, grass.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Largely permanent resident, but some birds nesting inland may move south in winter. Occasionally wanders north, mainly in warmer months.

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Migration

Largely permanent resident, but some birds nesting inland may move south in winter. Occasionally wanders north, mainly in warmer months.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Soft grunts.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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