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The Double-Crested Cormorant, A Fine Fisherman

Updated on November 12, 2012
Double-Crested Cormorant
Double-Crested Cormorant | Source

The Double-Crested Cormorant or shag, is the most widespread cormorant in North America. From a distance, it looks black, but in certain lighting, could appear to have a greenish sheen, so don’t let that common looking bird fool you. It really is a good-looking migratory bird, at a 32-inch length, weighing it at 4 pounds, give or take.

During breeding season, here’s when the crests come into play. It shows two tiny tufts of feathers, which are black in the eastern birds, but larger and mostly white in the western birds.

The Gang in the Sun
The Gang in the Sun | Source

Surprisingly, being a water bird, its wings are not completely waterproof, so upon leaving the water, the bird often perches on exposed items like driftwood, broken tree trunks, etc. with its wings held out to catch the rays of the sun and dry its feathers. Really. There’s no elaborate ritual or reasoning on it than this. It truly is that simple. The bill is long, strong, and hooked, so don’t try to hand feed this bird, as a rehabilitator. You could come away with more than you bargained for.

This cormorant swims very low in the water with its bill tilted slightly upward. In flight it has a very distinct crook in its neck. The immature birds are brown with a white face, breast and foreneck.

Anything Double-Crested Cormorant!

The Hangout
The Hangout | Source

The only sounds that I have ever heard come out of this bird are croaks and grunts. However, it is very gregarious. It is an excellent fish diver, and also enjoys crustaceans and amphibians. When in pursuit of their prey, they will use their wings to steer and brake, and bring their catch to the water’s surface before they swallow it. Like a penguin and other related species, it propels itself with its feet. It can do a very commendable half minute to minute dive and stay between 5-25 feet. The feet are large and webbed, and the legs are short, making this bird so competitive as a diver. If you think that you can outswim one, guess again.

Wing Drying
Wing Drying | Source

Both sexes incubate, and the young will be independent at two months to 9 weeks. They will generally leave the nest at 3-4 weeks, but they’ll return to be fed by both parents. There is one brood each year.

Sadly, these wonderful birds are killed by fishermen, who believe that these birds are competition. DDT hit them hard in the 60’s and 70’s, which naturally caused reproductive failure, like everything else.

They will nest in trees made of sticks and similar, lined with grass and leafy twigs. They also favor rocks cushioned with seaweed, and trash gathered at the edge of the water. They will even nest as close to water as they can, if all the choice real estate has been taken. The nest builder is the female, and two eggs are lain.

This bit of information won’t make you an authority on the D-C Cormorant, but it will certainly give you something to discuss at times when the conversation lags. Who knows, it might answer one of those Jeopardy questions for you when you’re on the show.

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, AnimalWrites, ocean and shore birds are interesting to me, too.

    • AnimalWrites profile image

      AnimalWrites 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      Thanks for the great information on cormorants aviannovice. I love watching water and sea bird hunt, they are so agile and graceful

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Wow, that's a lot to live up to, shiningirisheyes!

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Deb - You grab my interest and icnrease my fascination level with each creative and knowledgable write. I can not thank you enough friend.

      Blessings

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks for telling me what kind of birds you have, Nettlemere. I will look them up now.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      We get Phalacrocorax carbo which is just known as the cormorant, which like yours is increasingly seen on inland lakes and reservoirs and Phalacrocorax aristotelis known as the shag which isn't seen inland (as far as I know) but does have a single crest on the head.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Lucky cats. I think you'll enjoy working with the kittens. They are fun.

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      My time with the songbird clinic comes to an end in mid August...then, the majority of birds in need of help will have waned quite a bit. I am already wondering what to do next...it's hard to go into the animal sheter...though they are very good at placement .... maybe dog walking or the local PetCo where a local animal rescue/adoption/fostering program places socialized cats and kittens for adoption. Hopefully, knowing that these little ones will live to find loving homes, I'll be able to come and go without walking out with an armful of more cats....just can't do it..."the inn is full." always enjoy your writing! and I learn much from you, too.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      mhatter, you must get a lot of migratory birds. Have you been to see the parrots at Telegraph Hill? Are they still as plentiful as they used to be?

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Any time, gamby. With all the birds at Boomer Lake, there are opportunities to learn so much just by observing them.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Do you know what kind of cormorants you have there, Nettlemere? I'd be curious to see if there are any differences.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Great report. thank you. You would get a real kick out of where I live. without getting in a car the variety of birds is wasted on me.

    • gamby79 profile image

      gamby79 4 years ago

      Love these birds! Thanks for another great article!

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Another new species you've introduced me to and a great hub - we have cormorants over here, but minus the double crests.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, also this occurred in China and Japan. They used metal rings around the birds' throats.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Jeannie, were these the birds that you were telling me about that people were calling "the black pelicans"?

    • Pamela-anne profile image

      Pamela-anne 4 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Loved this hub infact I recently watched a show about live on the Mekong River and it did a piece about a fishermen that used these birds to go fishing for him. Tying a string around their necks to prevent them from swallowing the catch he would then feed their share by hand. Thanks for sharing take care.

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      Jeannie Dibble 4 years ago

      I've lived by Boomer 22 years and I honestly can't remember the Cormorants ever visiting our shores....What's going on Deb?

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      mecheshier, that means a lot to me. Nothing like great birds to begin my day!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Lucky Cats! I sure do love all these birds that I have come in contact with. I really do miss working with them in a clinic setting, but there is nothing in this area.

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 4 years ago

      Wow, what an amazing Hub. The pics are beautiful and love the info. Thanks for sharing. Voted up for awesome.

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Hi there aviannovice! Wonderful information about this beautiful species. Enjoy reading your writing about our feathered friends. As I have continued to work at the songbird clinic this summer, my appreciation for birds has grown expoentially. Such interesting creatures! Thank you for a "conversation starter - discussion filler" though, it is much much more than that. Great photographic illustrations, too. UP Awesome Beautiful Interesting Useful!!!!!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, hecate-horus. My first dealings with them was Downeast Maine coastal shores.

    • hecate-horus profile image

      hecate-horus 4 years ago from Rowland Woods

      Great info and pictures about the Cormorant. I always love to see these birds. They are so interesting and unique looking! Voted up and interesting!

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