Bird of the Week: Double-crested Cormorant

Though their winter plumage is relatively drab, Double-crested Cormorants are easy to spot in and around lakes and rivers during the winter. These fishing birds, not closely related to any other freshwater shorebirds in central Texas, can be quickly distinguished from ducks, geese, and other waterfowl by their distinctive profile. With heavy bones and little oil on their feathers, cormorants tend to ride low in the water with only their long necks protruding, giving them a snakelike appearance (in fact, the cormorant’s southern cousin, the Annhinga, is known as the “snake bird”). Their unoiled feathers get waterlogged more quickly than a duck’s, which allows them to maneuver more effectively underwater but also requires them to air-dry their wings– a behavior which makes them as easy to spot out of the water as in. The Double-crested Cormorant’s name may be confounding to a Texan observer, but during breeding season, which these birds spend in central Canada and the Midwest, the males sport two white tufts from either side of the head, giving them the appearance of mad scientists.

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.
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