The Miraculous Comeback
of a Misunderstood Bird
By Tom Pelton
Cormorant at a Glance
; APPEARANCE: The mostly dark cormorant has orange and white markings on the
face and bright blue eyes.
; SIZE: Double-crested cormorants measure 28 to 35 inches in length with a
wingspan of 45 to 48 inches. They are heavy-boned birds that can weigh over 5
; GEOGRAPHIC RANGE: Double-crested cormorants can be found from the Aleutian
Islands in Alaska to Florida and Mexico.
; FEEDING: Cormorants are expert underwater fishermen and can dive to depths over
20 feet for up to 70 seconds, propelled by their webbed feet.
; MATING: Cormorants are monogamous. Males perform elaborate courtship dances.
And, after forming a pair, the male loses his crests.
SOURCE: MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
ouble-crested cormorants are peculiar-looking
fishing birds—with black feathers; long,
snake-like necks; webbed feet; and hooked
beaks. They often have a pair of shaggy tufts—
double crests—on their heads that give them the appearance of disheveled professors. Cormorants nest in
colonies and sing in grunting croaks that sound like a
chorus of pigs.
Around the Chesapeake Bay, you may have seen cormorants standing on channel markers in their trademark pose: with their black wings held out sideways, to
dry in the sun. It is this vampire-like posture—and the
fact that cormorants eat fish—that has made the birds
reviled by fishermen and misunderstood for centuries.