Living Bird Magazine
Neotropic CormorantPhalacrocorax brasilianus
- ORDER: Suliformes
- FAMILY: Phalacrocoracidae
A nearly all-black waterbird with a snaky neck, the Neotropic Cormorant occurs in sheltered waters of southern U.S. states, the Caribbean, and Latin America. It is smaller and longer-tailed than other cormorants, but otherwise looks very similar to the Double-crested Cormorant, and the two species often flock together. Unlike its larger cousin, it sometimes plunge-dives for fish from a few feet above the water, almost like a booby, though it dives mostly as it paddles along the water’s surface, catching fish as it darts through the water.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Flocks of cormorants are fairly easy to spot whether nesting in trees, flying in loose formation, or resting on the water. The hard part is to distinguish this smaller species from the widespread Double-crested Cormorant, but look for Neotropic’s longer tail. Unlike some other cormorants, it may perch on utility wires and even in thin branches in treetops. Neotropic Cormorants often fish in sheltered water and can occur far inland, so look for them at fish farms, ponds, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, inlets, and bays.
- Cormorán Biguá (Spanish)
- Cormoran vigua (French)
- Cool Facts
- After a population drop in the 1960s, possibly due to the effects of DDT, the Neotropic Cormorant has rebounded and expanded its range rapidly in the United States. The species now nests in new areas including Arizona, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, and Louisiana. In some places where their ranges meet, Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorant have nested together in mixed pairs and have produced hybrid offspring.
- Neotropic Cormorant’s calls are sometimes likened to piglike grunts. In Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, local names that allude to this call include “pig duck” (pato cerdo, pato puerco), “dirty duck” (pato chancho), and “oinking duck (pato gruñón)!
- The Neotropic Cormorant is the only cormorant that plunges from midair into water to catch fish. Unlike gannets and boobies, it does not dive from great heights, restricting its dives to less than a 2 feet over the water.
- In Mexico, Neotropic Cormorants reportedly fish cooperatively. The birds form a line across swift-flowing streams and strike the surface with their wings. This scares fish into motion, whereupon the cormorants dive and pursue them.
- The oldest recorded Neotropic Cormorant was at least 11 years, 9 months old when it was found in Louisiana.