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             Friday, May 29, 2009 

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Double-Crested Cormorant and chicks on Rosario Caye
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Double-Crested Cormorant and chicks on Rosario Caye.

The Double-Crested Cormorant, the most widely distributed North American species.

In Belize, we have 2 documented cormorant species, the Neo-tropic and the Double-crested. Today we focus on the latter, a species we regularly see along our beaches, on posts, docks, and random tree stumps.

A Double-Crested Cormorant is a species that hunts by diving into the water and pursuing its prey. Double-Crested Cormorants have been recorded diving in Lake Ontario frequently to a depth of 10-15 m, the max recorded depth was 25.8 m! On average, a Double-Crested Cormorant dive depth is recorded at 4.7-7.9 m, a shallower diver compared to other cormorant species. Pretty impressive to reach that record!

The double-crested cormorant is very well adapted to survive in the natural habitats near the rivers, lakes and coastal waters of Belize. It mainly eats fish and hunts by swimming and diving. The forward facing eyes provides binocular vision with the ability to track and judge distance.The long hooked beak is designed for grabbing hold of mostly fish and the occasional crustacean. Its feathers, like those of all cormorants, are not waterproof allowing them to create a sleek, aerodynamic shape underwater. It must spend time drying the feathers out after spending time in the water. That is why we often see the cormorant with its wings held out as if exposing itself to the world. The cormorant is a poor flyer, and is a favorite target of the man-o-war (Frigatebirds) birds. It is frequently seen being tormented by these large great flyers, knocking them down into the water and forcing them to regurgitate a freshly caught meal.

Photograph by Elbert Greer

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