Beyond the BackyardViera Wetlands

Bend and Snap: Breeding Double-Crested Cormorants

A few weekends ago at Viera Wetlands, I photographed this Double-crested Cormorant on a palm tree trunk in front of me.  The bird sat there staring at me with his gorgeous bright blue eye, which is one of the features of his breeding plumage.  He stared at me so long that I got tired of waiting for him to do something.  Then quickly, he bent down, scooping his neck low and reaching his wings up behind him.  Then just as quickly, he snapped back up and resumed his stare.  Silly bird!  It must have been a courtship behavior, and all I could think of was the movie Legally Blonde and the “bend and snap!” scene.   He repeated this little “bend and snap” several times throughout the morning, usually when I was focused on some other action (like the Great Blue Herons who were stealing sticks from neighboring nests!)  Finally I managed to focus fast enough to catch him in a dip.

Double-crested Cormorant Breeding Display
Double-crested Cormorant Breeding Display…the “bend”
Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant – after he “snapped” back up!

I’ve often wondered why these birds are called Double-crested Cormorants.  During most of the year, their heads are quite smooth.  It’s only during breeding season that they get two tufted crests on the sides of their heads.  This season was the first time I’ve noticed the crests.  The Florida subspecies of Double-crested Cormorant has black crests, but other subspecies have white feathers mixed into the crest.

Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant – note the crested feathers sticking up

When my dad and I visited Fort De Soto to see the Great Horned Owl family, we stopped by Indian Rocks Beach and found a fully-crested cormorant posed on a post.  Now if only he had opened his mouth for us, to reveal the bright blue that is his other signature breeding color.  Maybe next time!

Double-Crests!
Double Crests!  I think his crests are best seen from the front.