Wild South Florida — Cormorants
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Double-Crested Comorant
closeup of cormorant  

If you spot a cormorant in Florida, it's most likely going to be this guy, the double-crested cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus. In fact, the double-crested cormorant is the most common cormorant in North America. They are year-round residents of Florida, with a range that extends as far north as Alaska. They're similar in appearance to anhingas, but the hooked, orange-yellow beak is the tell-tale feature that easily distinguishes the two birds. In fact, the orange beak distinguishes the double-crested cormorant from other cormorants as well. The "crests" are whisps of white or black feathers visible on the bird only during mating season.

cormorant swiming

cormorant on dead tree

Their main diet is fish, although they will eat insects, amphibians and crustaceans. They hunt while swimming under water, catching their prey with their beaks. Like anhingas, cormorants lack oils common in other water birds that repel water from their feathers. They're often spotted perched with their wings spread, using the sun and wind to dry out. This lack of oils actually is an advantage, allowing these birds to swim lower in the water.

Cormorants are fairly common near water, both fresh and salt. They can be found in coastal areas and well inland near lakes and ponds. They can, however, fly long distances for food.They nest in tree islands, forming colonies. Both males and females help build the nest, with the male gathering most of the material, and the female doing most of the construction. They use mostly twigs, but will include the odd piece of trash and even parts of dead birds. Cormorants are known to "borrow" twigs from a neighboring, unguarded nest.

Cormorant numbers dwindled seriously, as they were killed off in the mistaken belief that they were damaging fishing grounds. Pesticides such as DDT also took a toll. The population has recovered substantially, exploding in some areas, as restrictions on hunting and pesticides were imposed.

cormorants silouhette
More Links for Double-Crested Cormorant Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology Audubon Society National Geographic
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