Double-crested Cormorant      Phalacrocorax auritus

The Double-crested Cormorant is a common resident of Puget Sound.  This large fish-eating bird is often seen resting on buoys or drifting logs were it dries off from its underwater hunts.  This drying process often includes spreading its wings which is unique to Cormorants and their close relatives.

The Double-crested Cormorant is the largest cormorant in the Pacific Northwest.  In addition to its size, the bright orange color of the skin at the base of the bill sets it apart from other local species.  This juvenile Double-crested Cormorant sports a light colored breast which turns black in the adult.

The Double-crested Cormorant feeds exclusively on fish using the hook on the tip of its beak to grab prey.  The prey species range from herring and other schooling fish to bottom dwelling sculpins in shallow water.  They are commonly seen associated with seagulls attacking fish schools.  While the gulls attack from the surface, the Double-crested Cormorant pursue individual fish at the bottom of the herring ball.  They swim rapidly underwater using their large webbed feet.

Double-crested Cormorant also occur in freshwater rivers and lakes all across the United States as well as parts of Canada and Mexico.  After its population recovered from DDT exposure in the 1950's, it has become so common as to be considered a pest species in the Great Lakes area. There its large numbers are seen as a threat to local fish species normally taken by commercial and recreational fishers.  Hunting of this species is allowed in those areas, but not in Washington.