Sunday, January 24, 2010

Double-Crested Cormorant

The double-crested cormorant is found in North America from Alaska to Florida and Mexico. In breeding season it gets a small double crest of black or white feathers, which I have not yet seen. It has a bare patch of orange to yellow facial skin. There are five subspecies. The Farallon cormorant breeds along the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to Sinaloa, Mexico. The Farallon cormorant below was photographed along the central California coast at San Simeon State Beach. I'd hiked to an area where a large rock sits in the water just offshore covered with pelicans and cormorants.
Double-crested cormorant at San Simeon State Beach.
They provided an interesting silhouette with their very distinctive shapes.

I recently visited Everglades National Park in southern Florida and encountered another subspecies  the Florida cormorant, along the Anhinga Trail. The photos below give a close-up of the hooked bill and yellow/orange facial skin.

The cormorants have dark plumage, but juveniles are more dark gray or brownish and as they grow older the plumage grows darker. Those we saw close-up were brownish and had beautiful black-outlined feathers that looked like they'd been painted on.

After diving they will spend long periods of time standing with their wings outstretched to allow them to dry.
We found them mixing with anhingas, which also display the outstretched wings after diving. Both anhingas and cormorants in the Everglades were at close quarters in trees in the water, issuing deep guttural grunts and making quite a racket. 

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