DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)
The double-crested cormorant is a relatively large seabird and an excellent diver. It has black plumage, and black legs and feet, measuring around 30 inches long (75 cm) and with a wingspan of around four feet (120 cm). In spite of its classification as a ‘seabird’, this cormorant can be found around fresh water such as rivers and lakes inland.
It feeds mainly from fish which it hunts by diving at depths that can reach more than 20 feet (6 m) and last more than a minute. Its feathers are apparently not completely waterproof, since this bird can be seen drying its wings (see photo below) by opening them against the wind when back from fishing.
The ‘double-crested’ part of this bird’s name comes from the fact that the male displays a crest of white feathers on each side of its head during mating season. The double-crested cormorant is silent when flying, and these birds generally fly in a V-formation to save energy. They nest in colonies, and after a number of years the trees where they built their nests die from guano buildup, so the birds need to find new nesting grounds. But they also build their nests on cliffs or sheltered islands.
This bird is considered as a ‘nuisance’ by some groups as they believe they hunt commercial fish. However analysis of the double-crested cormorant’s stomach content appears to contradict that reputation.
The double-crested cormorant is widespread throughout North America, even including parts of Alaska. Their wintering range is located in the southeastern USA, including Texas.