Neotropic Cormorant: Small, long-tailed cormorant. Black upper and lowerparts may show blue gloss. Long hooked yellow-gray bill with yellow "v" shaped gular pouch edged in white. Legs and feet are black. Feeds on fish, crustaceans and amphibians. Flies low over water with strong rapid wing beats.
Range and Habitat
Neotropic Cormorant: Fairly common in U.S. range. Found primarily in Louisiana, Texas, and along the Rio Grande valley into New Mexico, but may also occur in California, Arizona, and Oklahoma. Also found throughout much of Mexico and Cuba. Inhabits saltwater bays and inlets, and freshwater lakes and ponds.
The order PELECANIFORMES (pronounced pel-leh-KAN-ih-FOR-meez) is composed of six families of aquatic birds such as the large, broad-winged pelicans, aerodynamically shaped frigatebirds and the cormorants.
A family with a worldwide distribution, there are thirty-six species of cormorants in three genera in the Phalacrocoracidae (pronounced fah-lah-kroh-koh-RAH-kih-dee).
The six species of cormorants found in North America are all placed in the same genus. Representatives of this family include the widespread Double-crested Cormorant, and the Red-faced and Pelagic Cormorants of the Pacific Coast.
Cormorants are most well known for their piscivorous (fish-eating) diet, the Double-crested Cormorant so much so that it has been persecuted in some areas for supposedly being a competitor with fisherman.
Cormorants are large birds with long, thick necks, longish tails and rather long, broad wings. They have thin bills with a sharp hooked tip ideally suited for catching fish and also have short legs with webbed feet. Like many other Pelecaniformes, cormorants have a bare patch of expandable skin on the throat.
Adult plumages of North American cormorant species are mostly black, juvenile plumages being brown and white. White is also found in the adult plumages of some species in the form of patches near the tail and wispy plumes that adorn breeding birds. Most species of cormorants also show bits of red or yellow on the bill and throat patch.
Cormorants fish in most aquatic habitats in North America, especially in larger bodies of water such as lakes, rivers and coastal habitats. The coasts harbor such species as the Great Cormorant of the North Atlantic, and the Brandt’s, Pelagic, and Red-faced Cormorants of the Pacific. The Neotropic Cormorant is mostly found in subtropical waters of southern Texas while the Double-crested ranges in both fresh and salt water.
Cormorants are mostly resident, becoming short-distance migrants to open water when the lakes and rivers of their breeding grounds freeze over during the winter.
Cormorants are very social birds that nest in colonies, and often occur in flocks while migrating and feeding. They forage for fish by swimming underwater after diving from the surface.
Cormorant species are not endangered with the Double-crested Cormorant actually dramatically increasing in number. Members of this family, however, are potentially threatened by oil spills.
Cormorants stretch their wings out to dry after feeding even if they haven’t entered the water (as with captive birds). While drying their wings, they often perch at communal roosting and breeding sites, most of the trees defoliated and killed by the profuse amount of excrement produced by the birds.