Plate 412

Violet-green Cormorant and Townsend's Cormorant

Read more about these species in our Bird Guide: Pelagic Cormorant, Brandt's Cormorant

This Cormorant, the most beautiful hitherto found within the limits of the United States, was obtained by Mr. TOWNSEND at Cape Disappointment, near the entrance of the Columbia river. The specimen from which the figure in the plate was taken, was transmitted to me by that zealous student of Nature. The beautiful gloss of its silky plumage suggested the specific name which I have given to it. 

VIOLET-GREEN CORMORANT, Phalacrocorax resplendens, Aud. Orn. Biog.,vol. v. p. 148. 

Female, 27; wing 10; tail 5 1/2. 

Cape Disappointment, near Columbia river. Abundant. 


Bill about the length of the head, slender, cylindrical, enlarged at the base, and compressed toward the end, straight. Upper mandible with the dorsal line very slightly concave, until on the unguis, where it is decurved, the ridge convex, flattened toward the end, separated from the sides by a narrow groove, the sides convex, the edges sharp and straight as far as the unguis, which is decurved, convex above, acute, its tip not extending beyond the level of the dorsal outline of the lower mandible. No external nostrils. Lower mandible with the angle long and very narrow towards the end, filled up by an extensile membrane which does not extend beyond the level of the eye, its very short dorsal line considerably convex, the sides erect and very convex, the edges sharp and inflected, the tip compressed and truncate. 

Head small, oblong. Neck long and slender. Body rather full, elongated, and depressed. Feet short, stout, placed far behind; tibia feathered in its whole length; tarsus very short, strong, much compressed, covered all round with scales, of which a series on the inner side anteriorly, and another on the outer, are scutelliform, the posterior very small and roundish. Toes all placed in the same plane, connected by reticulated webs, and covered above with numerous broad but very short oblique scutella; first toe smallest, fourth longest. Claws rather small, strong, compressed, acute, convex above, arched, that of the third toe pectinated on its inner edge. 

Plumage silky, being very soft, blended, and highly glossed. Feathers of the head and neck oblong, of the other parts ovate and rounded. The small gular sac, and the space before and beneath the eye, with the eyelids, bare. Wings rather small, broad; primaries curved; in the only individual in my possession, in which they are not fully developed, the first is an inch and four and a half twelfths shorter than the second, which is longest, but exceeds the third only by a twelfth; secondaries broadly rounded. Tail of moderate length, very narrow, much rounded or cuneate, lateral feathers being an inch and ten-twelfths shorter than the middle; the feathers, twelve in number, are narrow, with very strong shafts. 

Bill dusky, gular sac and bare skin about the eyes orange. Iris light green. Feet black. The general colour of the plumage is deep green, seeming black in some lights, and bright green and purple in others. Along the sides of the neck and the hind part of the sides of the body, are scattered numerous white piliform feathers, terminated by a pencil of filaments. The quills and tail-feathers are brownish-black, and less glossy. 

Length to end of tail 27 inches; bill along the ridge 1 10/12, along the edge of lower mandible 2 8/12; wing from flexure 10; tail 5 1/2; tarsus 1 9/12; hind toe 10/12, its claw (5 1/2)/12; second toe 1 7/12, its claw (8 1/4)/12; third toe 2 1/4, its claw 9/12; fourth toe 3 2/12, its claw 7/12.

For more on this species, see its entry in the Birds of North America Field Guide.

Your Birds of America download awaits

Please consult our Terms of Use before downloading, and please credit the illustrations as follows: "Courtesy of the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Montgomery County Audubon Collection, and Zebra Publishing"

Thank you for signing up!

Download your image here.