The Double-crested Cormorant is a fascinating bird. With their prehistoric look they conjure visions of another time even as their populations are growing in this one.
The cormorants are a large, gangly waterbird. Their habitat is near rivers, bays or lakes as well as some coastal areas. They are matte black in appearance and an odd combination of goose and loon in both shape and size. They have long crooked bills and aquamarine eyes that sparkle like jewels. I have read that their mouths are bright blue inside but I’ve yet to note that in a photo or personal observation.
They build stick nests high in trees or on the ground. They are efficient fishers and able to dive 2-25 ft for 30-70 seconds. They dive for underwater prey such as schooling fish or aquatic invertebrates. Those strongly hooked bills (roughly the length of their heads) aid in the capture when diving for prey.
Juveniles have yellow-orange skin around the bill and a pale neck and breast.
Breeding birds have small tufts on the side of their heads, though not always visible.
In breeding season, the adults have a small double crest of stringy white feathers.
Unlike ducks, the feathers of the cormorants are not waterproof. You will often see them using the technique of “wing-spreading” to dry their feathers. They are clumsy on land (though you will rarely see them there) taking short hops rather steps or walking.
They are protected under the US Migratory Bird Act but their populations, as I mentioned earlier, are not at risk. Many cultures consider cormorants a symbol of nobility and indulgence. In more recent history the cormorant is considered a good luck charm for fisherwomen (or men) and a talisman that will bring a bountiful catch.
(The cormorant was also a symbol of greed and deception in John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, as the form Satan took to disguise himself to enter Eden before tempting Eve)
Fun fact: a group of cormorants is called a “gulp”.
I was fortunate to have the chance to capture all of these photos in the same hour at Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland Washington. Thanks for joining me here today !