Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Double-Crested Cormorants in Greeley, Colorado

Cormorant at Greeley's Veteran's Park in Sherwood. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

My two oldest grandchildren and I had a wonderful surprise while visitng the park recently. None of us had ever seen a Cormorant before other than in pictures, and there was five or six of them in the lake! There are approximately 40 species of cormorants, and we were blessed to have a small flock at Bittersweet, our local park in Greeley, Colorado. 

When I first saw them drifting across the lake I thought they were the strangest gathering of ducks I'd ever seen. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website describes them as "gangly" and "prehistoric looking," and I'd say that's an accurate description. 

I was watching them from a distance, so I still thought they were ducks. It wasn't until one flew into a nearby tree that I realized they were not ducks at all. The flight into the tree was odd, as well. The bird chose a tall three with then branches that bent beneath its weight and swung back and forth in the breeze. If I was a bird that size I would have chosen a much larger, sturdier branch, but this bird was perfectly content to sit at the very top of this thin-branched tree, perhaps because it provided the bird with a better view of the neighborhood. 

Cormorant. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Judging from the photos, I believe these birds were Double-Crested Cormorants. They have a wingspan of approximately 3 1/2 feet--not quite the width of a hawk or eagle, which may explain why I thought they were ducks in spite of their size. 

They looked dark. Actually, I thought they were large, black birds. When one flew into a tree and I was able to see it up close I realized it was actually wearing some fine, fancy feathers! It had orange on its face, too, and shimmering blue eyes. 

Cormorants in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

It's possible they were looking for a nesting spot. It is that time of year! Cormorants also have an interesting home life. According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Double-crested Cormorants often build their nests where they can reach direct sunlight. When the chicks break out of their eggs, the parents provide them with shade and a cool drink of wather that they pour from their own mouths into the mouths of their chicks. Then, when the chicks are big enough to leave home, they hang out in groups, like little cormorant chick cliques, but they always return home for dinner, though. 

Cormorant taking off across the water. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

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