The Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), a seabird commonly seen along Maine’s inland and coastal waterways, possess gangly, primitive features, making it appear more closely matched to prehistoric times rather than modern day. The double-crest of the Cormorant appears on adults during breeding season. Crests vary in coloration from white to black dependent on geographic location.
Frequently mistaken for geese and loons, a cormorant’s long kinked neck, stocky black body, sea-green eyes, hooked bill and orange-yellow facial skin easily distinguishes it from other aquatic birds.
Not possessing as much preen oil as ducks, Cormorant’s feathers absorb rather than shed water. Though appearing a poor evolutionary trait, wet feathers make cormorants more adept at diving and maneuvering underwater, allowing them to hunt prey with great speed and agility. This means cormorants must dry their wings before they are able to fly, making cormorants frequent visitors on docks and rocky outcroppings where they can be seen spreading their wings to dry.
Like Geese, flocks of cormorants travel in V-shaped flocks during October and November, as they migrate from inland lakes and waterways to the coast to escape the deep freeze of the Maine winter. In the spring, Cormorants travel to breeding colonies along the coast as well as on large inland lakes. Nest construction typically occurs on rocky islands, where they are built with whatever materials are readily available. An examination of a cormorant nest will typically find an odd assortment of junk, including discarded fishing line, plastic bottles, rope, Styrofoam, shells and even the bones of birds, fish and animals.
Cormorants are typically very good parents, using their bodies and wings to shading chicks from the direct rays of the sun. The average life expectancy of a double-crested cormorant is around 6 years with the oldest known representative of the species living to be 22 years old.
Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. When does the double crest appear on the double crested cormorant?
2. What features make the cormorant easy to distinguish it from loons and geese?
3. What do cormorants lack that makes it difficult for them to keep their feathers dry?
4. Do cormorants fly in V-shaped formations?
5. Do cormorants migrate?
6. When do cormorants breed?
7. Cormorant nests are constructed of what materials?
8. What is the average age of a cormorant?
9. What was the age of the oldest know cormorant?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The crest on the double crested cormorant appears during breeding season.
2. Cormorants are easy to distinguish from loons and geese by their long kinked necks, stocky black bodies, sea-green eyes, hooked bills and orange-yellow facial skin.
3. Cormorant’s glands do not produce large amounts of preening oil like ducks and other aquatic birds.
4. Cormorants do fly in V-shaped formations like geese.
5. Cormorant populations on large inland lakes and river migrate to coastal waters during the winter to escape freeze-up.
6. Cormorants breed in the spring.
7. Cormorant nests are constructed of fishing line, plastic bottles, rope, Styrofoam and shells, and even the bones of birds, fish and animals.
8. Cormorants live to an average age of 6 years.
9. The oldest know cormorant lived to be 22 years old.
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