Species Profile: Get to Know the Double-Crested Cormorant

double_crested_cormorant.jpgWe’re all familiar with the numerous ducks and geese that frequent Denver parks, but have you noticed the other less common waterfowl, like the Cormorant? Cormorants are among the many species of waterfowl for which Denver is along the migratory path.                          

Cormorants are best known for their expert fishing abilities, and have been used for centuries by traditional fishermen in China and Japan. Snares tied around the bird’s long neck prevent the swallowing of large fish that can then be retrieved by the fishermen. You can observe the natural fishing abilities of the Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) at ponds, rivers and reservoirs during the summer months in eastern Colorado. The bird’s dark color can make it difficult to spot, especially when it is diving for fish, but you can find it by keeping a close eye out for its orange throat and hook-tipped bill. Watch carefully or you will lose sight of it when it dives underwater for a fish. Cormorants can dive up to 25 feet below the water’s surface and stay submerged for up to 70 seconds. If you’re lucky you will see the bird emerge with a fish in its bill and swallow it whole!

You can also often see Cormorants perched on a log with their wings spread open to dry in the sun. Unlike many waterfowl, they lack waterproofing oils to coat their feathers. This makes it easier for the birds to dive, but creates the need for wing drying before flight.

Good places to start your search for a Cormorant in Denver would be at Overland Pond Park or City Park. City Park is often cormorant.jpgthe site of a large nesting colony and the SPREE team has witnessed many Cormorants fishing at Overland Pond. These birds have adapted well to sharing urban environments. They have even been known to incorporate trash, such as rope, hairpins, deflated balloons, and even pocketknives into their nests. Even so, it is more important than ever for us to take care of the natural areas these and other waterfowl need to survive. Without our parks we wouldn’t be able to experience these amazing animals in the city.