Double-crested Cormorant

Cormorants of Minnesota (2 Species to Know)

Cormorants are slender diving waterbirds with a distinctive shape and set of habits. While there are many cormorant species that live in North America, there are only two that can typically be found in Minnesota, with one being extremely abundant and the other being quite rare. Here is everything you need to know about these two species.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Adult Double-crested Cormorants have a dark brown to black head, neck, back, underside and wings. Juveniles will be lighter brown in color with a lighter throat and underside. Both adults and juveniles have orange by the eyes and base of the bill as well as a turquoise colored eye. Breeding adult birds have two tufts on their head that can sometimes be hard to see, but these crests are what this species is named for.


Double-crested Cormorants live year round along the Pacific Coast of North America from Northwestern Mexico all the way up to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. They also live year round in parts of Florida. This species winters in in the Southeastern United States and Northeastern Mexico. In spring, they move into the Northern United States and Southern Canada where they can be seen migrating in large flocks.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Double-crested Cormorants primarily eat fish which they catch by hunting them underwater. They will also eat other aquatic creature such as crustaceans and amphibians.

Where to Find This Bird

Double-crested Cormorants can be found in a variety of places with all of them usually being near bodies of water. Look for this species in trees lining lakes and ponds as well as in marshes. Often times, Double-crested Cormorants will congregate in large groups on islands or other places with adequate perches as they dry their wings and survey for prey.

Neotropic Cormorant (Rare)

Neotropic Cormorant – Photo by Alan Schmierer

Neotropic Cormorants are small members of the cormorant family. Adult birds are a shiny black color with white feathers on their head, back, and wings. They have a white triangle on the base of the bill known as a gular. Neotropic Cormorants have yellowish orange on the base of the bill and a turquoise colored eye. Juveniles are lighter in color overall, sporting brown coloration instead of black.


Neotropic Cormorants live year-round in South America, Central America, much of Mexico, and the Gulf Coast of the United States. While much of the population is not migratory, some birds move north in spring and have a habit of turning up north of their normal range.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Neotropic Cormorants eat mostly fish, but will also consume insects, crustaceans, and amphibians. These birds are sight feeders and search for prey underwater where their streamlined bodies make them adept swimmers.

Where to Find This Bird

Neotropic Cormorants live in a wide variety of places including inland lakes, saltmarshes, and along ocean coastlines. They can often be seen perched in branches and other structures near water keeping watch for food.

In Minnesota, Neotropic Cormorants are very rare visitors and only show up sporadically. They can sometimes be found in marshes, near ponds, or along the shores of the Great Lakes. Keep an eye on large flocks of Double-crested Cormorants for a smaller looking cormorant.

For information on how to differentiate a Double-crested Cormorant from a Neotropic Cormorant click here to read an article on the subject, or check out the video below.

Neotropic vs. Double-crested Cormorant


Cormorants are unique, lanky birds that are a common sight near the water. Knowing the habits, range, and key identification features of each of these species can be incredibly useful in knowing what to look for in the field. Hopefully this post helped in understanding the cormorants of Minnesota.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel.

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