Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2008-07

Common name:

Neotropic Cormorant

Scientific name: Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Date:  04/19/2008
Time: 12:28
Length of time observed: 20 minutes
Number: 2-3
Age: adult
Sex: unknown
Location: Farmington Pond Park, Farmington
County: Davis
Latilong: 40.980N. , -111.886W
Elevation: 4302 ft
Distance to bird: 20 yards?
Optical equipment: Canon Rebel XTi with EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
Weather: Sunny; temps in the 50s. Very windy, though reduced in the pond area due to canyon-like location
Light Conditions: Clear sun nearly directly overhead
Description:        Size of bird: 20-30 inches
(Description:)       Basic Shape: duck-like with a longer neck and pointed bill with a hooked top tip
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: brown with yellow pouch under bill, wrapping back to the eye. Eye is blue-green.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Bill is narrow and tapers to a hooked point. Gray in color.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Bird sat low in the water with head tilted up at a slight angle when swimming. It would dive under water completely for long periods of time (longer than a duck would usually). Frequently left the water to circle over the pond for minutes at a time.

Was seen in the company of 7 double crested cormorants. The double crested, in contrast to the birds I'm reporting, were black and one had the visible two crests on its head.

The possible neotropic cormorants were lighter in color and had a white border along the yellow neck patch between the yellow part and the tan feathers of the cheek and chin. This contrasted with the other cormorants present.

The behavior of the birds differed in that the lighter-colored cormorants I saw did not take the time to lift their wings in a sunning position as they floated in the water, as the darker birds did. They spent more time in the air, circling the pond.

The birds were silent while I was observing them, so I have no record of a call.

One of the birds emerged from the water with a small fish in its mouth, but swallowed it very quickly when one of the double-crested cormorants approached, so I was unable to photograph it.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: There was no call while I was observing.
Behavior: Swam low in the water with bill tilted up slightly. Dove under the water for food, and stayed for several seconds at a time. Ate fish. Circled overhead the pond frequently and landed amongst the group each time. Grouped together away from people on the shores, away from the ducks and geese present in the pond.
Habitat: Public pond surrounded on two side with heavy deciduous forest and canyon-like walls. A waterfall was 15 feet from their position. Pond was stocked with trout, and perch. Possibly other stocked native fish.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Double-crested cormorants were also present. Contrasts that separated the birds: the DC were black; the NC were brown to clay-gray all over. The DC's yellow pouch ended in a right-angle line below the eye. The NC's pouch was shaped like a sideways V. The DC's pouch was orange-yellow all the way to the feathered perimiter. The NC had a distinct white border on the perimeter of the pouch near the cheek and eye.

Comparisons to other species of cormorant: DC and NC are the only cormorants with the yellow chin pouch. This eliminated the other cormorants.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I lived in Arizona and birded there for 7 years. The Neotropic cormorant is a common spring visitor to the riparian areas. This month, in Utah, I have been following a group of cormorants from the Pond Park in Farmington to the Utah Botanical Center in Kaysville, and photographing them. This is the first time this variant of the bird has appeared. The group has grown from 4 to 10-12 in the past month.
References consulted: Photos of Neotropic Cormorants in Arizona, Peterson's Guide to Western Birds
Description from: From memory
Observer: Ronnie Schiller Johnson
Observer's address: 554 S 400 E Apt A Bountiful, UT 84010
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: I am aware of none.
Date prepared: 04/22/2008
Additional material: Photos
Additional Comments: photos have been submitted to Milton Moody in advance of this report.