Birds of Chignik: Double-crested Cormorant

Chignik Double-crested cormorant

Next to Pelagic Cormorants (left), at first glance Double-cresteds are bulkier birds. The yellow lores and throat are diagnostic. As is also the case with Red-faced Cormorants, the coloration is due to bare skin, not plumage. Note, too, the Double-crested’s heavy, hooked bill.

From a distance, the Chignik’s three species of cormorants, like most cormorants worldwide, look pretty much the same: a gangly cross between a loon and a goose dressed in drab, brown-black plumage. But if you’re lucky enough to get near to a cormorant, you might find that they are actually quite striking.

Like our other cormorants, Double-cresteds are primarily piscivorous. They are far and away the most wide-spread and common of North America’s cormorants, and unlike our other species, Double-cresteds frequently nest in trees. This could account for the fact that they are more frequently seen in fresh water than Red-faced or Pelagic cormorants, though they are still at home on ocean waters.

“Mike” Michael L. Baird’s photograph captures the double crest of this Double-crested Cormorant in breeding plumage. CC BY 2.0,

In non-breeding plumage, look for the yellow-orange skin around the Double-crested’s face. Photograph  © Frank Schulenburg, CC BY-SA 4.0,

From a distance, this Japanese Cormorant looked as black and nondescript as any cormorant, but a closer look revealed a pallet of subtle hues..

Double-crested Cormorant Range Map: with permission from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds of the World

Double Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
Order: Suliformes
PhalacrocoraxLatinized Ancient Greek = cormorant (from “bald” and “crow/raven”)
auritusLatin = eared (for its breeding plumage crests)

Status at Chignik Lake: Not observed in the freshwater drainage, but common in nearby coastal waters

David Narver, Birds of the Chignik River Drainage, summers 1960-63Not observed

Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuge Bird List, 2010:
Common in Summer; Uncommon in Spring & Fall; Rare in Winter

Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve Bird List: Present

Table of Contents for the Complete List of Birds of Chignik Lake

© Photographs, images and text by Jack Donachy unless otherwise noted.

4 thoughts on “Birds of Chignik: Double-crested Cormorant

  1. Jack I thoroughly enjoy your “Birds of Chignik Lake”. Do you think that an eco-tourism business would go at the Lake? Maybe something that included Birding? Luthi

    • Well, indeed, great minds do think alike, Rick! In the past few weeks, I’ve had multiple conversations with people connected to The Lake about this. In each case, it was others who brought the idea to me, so I’m not the only one who believes that this place has potential as a photography/wildlife viewing/nature experiencing destination. In fact, I’m working with someone on developing a sort of chamber-of-commerce type web page for The Lake at the moment. A lot of us would like to see the economy diversify here. Plus, it’s my belief that the more people who know about the beauty and intrinsic value of places such as The Lake, the better we stand to protect and conserve them for future generations.JD

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