Neotropic Cormorant

Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Range Map

Other than the Double-Crested, the Neotropic Cormorant is the only other North American cormorant that we commonly find in fresh water environs. Both cormorants have green eyes, but the Neotropic is smaller and has a longer tail than the Double-Crested. Breeding Neotropic Cormorants show a white chevron pattern behind the facial skin, but this can be hard to see in non-breeding birds. Most of the population of these birds stay well south of the southern USA border, even across most of South America, but they show up during breeding season in a few southern states, especially Texas, where the gulf coast hosts them year round.

I met my first Neotropic Cormorants during a summer visit to Bosque del Apache in 2003, then again in 2016. Until 2020, New Mexico birds were the only members of this species I’d met. I finally met some more of these birds during my Spring 2020 and 2021 expeditions to Texas.

When I visited Anahuac NWR in the spring of 2021, and again in the late summer of 2022, I enjoyed close encounters with these birds at the side of the auto tour road, and caught them from the open window of my RV.

Two subspecies are recognized by most taxonomists:

  • P. b. mexicanus breeds in the southern United States from Arizona to Louisiana, and south to Costa Rica, the Bahamas and Cuba. Birds it the northern part of their range migrate south in winter.
  • P. b. brasilianus lives from Panama and south throughout South America to Cape Horn. In winter, some birds in the southern part of range disperse north.

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