Double Crested Cormorants
The fall migration brings many species of birds through Middle Park and Blue Valley Ranch, and while the ranch’s development of waterfowl habitat entices many waterfowl and shorebird species to stop on the ranch and stay awhile, our fisheries habitat often convinces fishing birds to stop as well, like these double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus).
Cormorants are divers, and feed almost exclusively on fish, so we usually find them on the fishing ponds rather than in the waterfowl impoundments. The double crests that give them their name are only visible during the breeding season. The lighter brown coloration on these particular birds may indicate that they are juveniles.
Cormorants are often seen sitting on a rock or log with outspread wings basking in the sun. They don’t produce as much preen oil as ducks do, so their feathers don’t repel water as well, requiring them to dry out occasionally. This may not be a lacking feature, however, as it may allow them to maneuver better underwater, even if it causes them to sit a little lower in the water while on the surface, as seen in this photo taken earlier in the summer.
Though they have often been described as looking “prehistoric”, cormorants are quite graceful underwater, feeding on over 250 species of fish in both freshwater and saltwater habitat around their wintering grounds on the Pacific and Gulf coasts.