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Identifying Neotropic Cormorant and Double-crested Cormorant

Neotropic Cormorant, adult. April in Galveston County, Texas. Photo by Brian E. Small
Neotropic Cormorant, adult. April in Galveston County, Texas. Photo by Brian E. Small

Over most of North America, cormorant ID used to be easy. True, there were multiple species on the Pacific Coast, a couple along the northern Atlantic Coast, and Neotropic Cormorants in part of coastal Texas and extreme southwestern Louisiana. But everywhere else, throughout the interior and the southeastern coast, it was safe to call any cormorant a Double-crested.

That’s no longer true. In recent decades the Neotropic Cormorant has greatly expanded its range. It nests commonly in the interior of Texas and Louisiana, as well as Arkansas, Okla­homa, New Mexico, and Arizona. It’s found regularly in California, Kansas, Mississippi, and Florida. Strays wander more widely every year, as far as New Jersey, Ontario, Minnesota, and Idaho. Apparently, Neotropic Cormorants could show up anywhere, and birders everywhere have reason to watch for them.

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Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman is an expert birder and naturalist, a talented artist and photographer, a world traveler, and the author of many books about birds and other wildlife. His column “ID Tips” appears in every issue of BirdWatching. Kenn is also a field editor for Audubon Magazine and a contributor to Birds and Blooms. His work first appeared in Birder’s World (now BirdWatching) in April 1988. Visit his website, Kaufman Field Guides.

Kenn Kaufman on social media

Brian E. Small

Brian E. Small

Brian Small is a Los Angeles-based bird and nature photographer whose photos appear in the “ID Tips” column in every issue of BirdWatching. His work has been published in Time, The New York Times, Audubon, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation, and many other publications. His photos also illustrate many field guides, including Kenn Kaufman’s Birds of North America, a series of state bird identification guides published with the American Birding Association, and his own Eastern and Western photographic field guides to the birds of North America published in 2009 with author Paul Sterry and Princeton University Press.

Brian E. Small on social media