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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1995289
In non-breeding plumage, look for the yellow-orange skin around the Double-crested’s face. Photograph © Frank Schulenburg, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79611808
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 Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
Phalacrocorax: Latinized Ancient Greek = cormorant (from “bald” and “crow/raven”)
auritus: Latin = eared (for its breeding plumage crests)
Status at Chignik Lake: Not observed in the freshwater drainage, but common in nearby coastal waters
Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuge Bird List, 2010:
Common in Summer; Uncommon in Spring & Fall; Rare in Winter
Table of Contents for the Complete List of Birds of Chignik Lake
© Photographs, images and text by Jack Donachy unless otherwise noted.