How do you identify cormorants?

Answered by Edward Huber

Identifying cormorants can be quite straightforward if you know what to look for. These birds have distinct characteristics that help in their identification. Let’s dive into the details!

1. Size and Color:
Adult cormorants are typically brown-black in color. They have a sleek appearance and are medium to large-sized birds, ranging from 28 to 35 inches in length. Their wingspan can vary from 45 to 55 inches, making them quite impressive in flight.

2. Facial Patch:
One of the key features of adult cormorants is the small patch of yellow-orange skin on their face. This patch is usually located around the base of the bill and the eyes. It adds a pop of color to their otherwise dark plumage.

3. Immature Plumage:
Immature cormorants have a slightly different appearance compared to adults. They are generally browner overall and have a paler neck and breast. As they mature, their plumage gradually darkens, and they acquire the characteristic black color.

4. Crests:
During the breeding season, adult cormorants develop a small double crest of feathers on their heads. These crests can be either black or white in color, depending on the species. The crests are usually thin and stringy, giving the bird a distinctive appearance.

5. Behavior:
Observing the behavior of cormorants can also aid in identification. These birds are excellent divers and swimmers. They have a habit of holding their wings out to dry after swimming, which can be a helpful clue when trying to spot them near water bodies.

6. Habitat:
Cormorants are primarily found near aquatic habitats such as lakes, rivers, estuaries, and coastal areas. They are often seen perched on rocks, trees, or even man-made structures like piers and jetties. Their preference for these habitats can further assist in their identification.

To summarize, when identifying cormorants, look for their brown-black plumage with a small yellow-orange facial patch in adults. Immature birds are browner overall. During breeding season, adults may develop a double crest of black or white feathers. Pay attention to their behavior and habitat preferences as well.

I remember a time when I was birdwatching near a lake, and I spotted a group of cormorants perched on a log. Their dark plumage and distinctive facial patches made them instantly recognizable. As I watched, a few of them dived into the water, showcasing their impressive swimming skills. It was a wonderful sight, and their unique features made the identification process quite easy.

Identifying cormorants can be an exciting and rewarding experience. By paying attention to their physical characteristics, behavior, and habitat, you can confidently recognize these fascinating birds in the wild.