Double-crested cormorants are the most common cormorant in North America and the only cormorant in Louisiana. Members of the gull family, cormorants are colonial birds found in North Louisiana during the fall and winter months. (I’ve seen them as early as September and as late as April on D’Arbonne Lake.)
Because cormorants are opportunistic eaters, who love to dine on fish, especially fish in breeding ponds, they have a history of being maligned. They were shot regularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for destroying fisheries and looking creepy. But, no, cormorants are NOT the devil in disguise. Milton used a bit of creative license in that one small portion of Paradise Lost. Please don’t confuse them for the devil and shoot them. Okay, yes, yes, cormorants look and act creepy, but don’t we all?
Cormorants tend to build nests on the ground and on rocks, but will build nests in trees. Trees that cormorants nest in generally die within a few years due to deadly cormorant poop buildup, which brings me to this piece of advice: Don’t eat the yellow snow, and don’t stand under the cormorant tree.
The crest of the double-crested cormorant is only visible during mating season. The male cormorant flashes his crest, neck, and baby blues after choosing a nesting site to alert females that he’s available. He grunts and waves his outstretched wings until a female arrives, then opening his mouth to show her its blue inside.
If the female doesn’t call the po po on him for the show, he will begin to collect materials for the nest. He will collect anything he can find, including twigs, sticks, litter, and even parts of dead birds, sometimes stealing twigs and other building materials from other unguarded nests. If the other birds don’t call the po po on him for the theft, the female will use the materials to build the nest.
The blue mouth comes in handy in property disputes as well. When male cormorants argue over territory or find themselves in competition over food, they stretch their necks, open their mouths to flash that pretty blue, and hiss.
Cormorants’ hobbies include fishing, lounging, and drying off. They lack much of the feather oil that ducks have. The missing oils cause water to get in their feathers when they dive after lunch, dinner, breakfast, snacks… Let’s just say they spend a lot of time in water, so they need to spend a lot of time in the sun. They dry their feathers by standing on rocks and logs and opening their wings in the sun.
Cormorants in the News
New research came out in May of 2017 showing that cormorants can hear underwater! Science Daily summarized the research on its website.
Where to Find North Louisiana Cormorants
Cormorants can be found near water, especially lakes and wetlands. I suggest checking out D’Arbonne Lake or Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge during the fall or winter to see cormorants.