By: Dawn Wilson
This week’s featured animal is the double-crested cormorant.
A few double-crested cormorants have made Lake Estes their summer home for a few years now. They will be leaving soon for warmer weather, but it has been fun to watch them dive for fish and sun themselves on the rocks on low water level days. Here are five facts about this unique looking bird with beautiful eyes.
1. The oldest documented wild double-crested cormorant lived to be 17 years and nine months, eight years older than the average lifespan of a wild bird.
2. Juvenile double-crested cormorants are brown with a buff belly and neck. Their adult counterparts, however, are dark black with an orange throat patch and a distinct turquoise eye.
3. The double-crested cormorant is the only cormorant that nests in the Western interior, including in rookeries on islands in Colorado lakes. Most other cormorants nest along the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Florida.
4. Double-crested cormorants eat mostly fish — more than 250 species have been documented — but supplement their diet with insects, crustaceans, and amphibians.
5. If a cormorant catches a crayfish, it will hammer the prey on the water surface to knock off the legs and then flip it to catch it headfirst for easy swallowing.
Dawn Wilson is a professional and award-winning nature photographer who lives in Estes Park year-round. You can see more of her work, join one of her Rocky tours, and purchase prints at DawnWilsonPhotography.com or follow her on Instagram: @dawnwilsonphoto.