New Mexico Birds: Suliformes


Hover over the photo series to control the images.

Phalacrocoracidae: Double-Crested Cormorant (Nannopterum auritum)


Double-crested cormorants winter in New Mexico along the Rio Grande and Pecos River, and each of those rivers includes a pocket of year-round residents. In Albuquerque, however, sightings are uncommon. When seen there, the key attribute for ID is the bright yellow lores (the spaces between the upper bills and the eyes). Also look for a large amount of yellow at the back of the jaw, and for a bird that's a little larger than the adjacent neotropic cormorants. If there's a white fringe to the back of the jaw, that's a neotropic (but not all neotropics display that attribute).


In the image to the left, the crest mentioned in the bird's name is no more than a few wisps near the top of the head.

Double-crested cormorant, Tingley Beach, New Mexico


In this image, taken a little later in the breeding season, the two crests are far more obvious. It helps that a breeze was ruffling the cormorant's crests. 


Phalacrocoracidae: Neotropic Cormorant (Nannopterum brasilianum)

This species was formerly known as Phalacrocorax brasilianus


Neotropic cormorants have established a seasonal home base (including nests in a tree) on an island in Tingley Beach. From there they spread up and down the Rio Grande during the day to hunt fish. In the late summer, most of them vanish; not surprising, since they winter well south in Mexico. However, there often seems to be one or two stalwarts who winter in the Albuquerque area.


When cormorants swim on the surface, their bodies are mostly underwater. I'm distinguishing these birds from double-crested cormorants (P. auritus) based on attributes such as the lack of highly obvious yellow lores (the spaces between the beaks and eyes), the limited yellow at the base of the beak, the thin whitish fringe to the beak, and how brown the juveniles' breasts are.