April 17, 2016

Dunes in Flight: the Double-crested Cormorant

cormorant banner

Common name: Double-crested Cormorant

Scientific name: Phalacrocorax auritus

Family: Phalacrocoracidae (cormorants and shags)

cormorant swimming

The Double-crested cormorant is a large water bird that is found in both fresh and salt water bodies throughout North America. Unlike a duck, the cormorant floats low in the water and dives to catch small fish with its hooked bill. Relatives of the Double-crested Cormorant such as the Japanese Cormorant and the Great Cormorant have been used by Chinese fishermen in a traditional fishing method in which the birds are utilized for their expert fish catching abilities.


cormorant drying

Adults are black and have a patch of yellow skin on their face. Immatures are more brown and have pale down feathers on their neck and chest. Look for a distinct "s" shape in the neck when identifying. They can often be seen standing on docks, rocks, and tree limbs either resting or drying their outspread wings. This is actually due to the fact that these birds have less preen oil than other birds, so their feathers are not as water proof as other water birds such as ducks and loons. Having less preen oil allows the cormorant to be faster and move more swiftly when hunting underwater.


cormorant resting

The Double-crested Cormorant primarily feasts on fish, but have been known to eat bugs, crustaceans, and amphibians. Their webbed feet and hooked bill are very helpful for catching prey. Males will develop a tuft of white and black feathers above both eyes during the breeding season giving the Double-crested Cormorant its name. They choose their nest sites on the ground and can lay up to 7 eggs in one brood.


The Double-crested Cormorant is a common sight at fresh water lakes and marshes in the dunes. Have you spotted this interested species during your time exploring the dunes? Let us know in the comment section below, and don't forget to share any photos you have with us on our FaceBook page!

Photography Credit: Majorie Lane


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