Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2010-16

Common name:

Neotropic Cormorant

Scientific name: Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Date: 25 Apr 2010
Time: 1:49 PM
Length of time observed: 44 minutes
Number: 2
Age: First year?
Location: Sandy Fishing Pond
County: Salt Lake
Distance to bird: Estimated 20 yards
Optical equipment: Nikon 20x spotting scope, Nikon 10x42 Monarch ATB binoculars, Nikon D80 with 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR lens.
Weather: Sunny, breezy.
Light Conditions: Direct overhead light.
Description:        Size of bird: Noticeably smaller than a Double-crested Cormorant
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Cormorant shape
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Dark brown to blackish
(Description:)            Bill Type: Cormorant bill
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Please see "Similar species," below.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: None.
Behavior: Resting and occasionally preening on a small island in the pond. Did not leave this position in the 44 minutes of observation.
Habitat: A small pond along the Jordan River that has been stocked with trout.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
The only other cormorant that is likely in this area is the very common Double-crested Cormorant, but all species of cormorants can be eliminated by a combination of features.

Size: Small for a cormorant, visibly smaller than Double-crested Cormorants. Size alone eliminates all other North American cormorants.

Proportions: Very long-tailed, with the tail almost equalling the length of head and neck, especially while the neck was in the relaxed position (i.e. not outstretched).

Color pattern: Overall dark brownish; not yet in black breeding plumage, but a pale border to the gape could be discerned. No pale flank patches.

Lores: Brown and feathered, indicating Neotropic Cormorant, not yellow and bare as in young Double-crested Cormorants.

Bill color: Orange at base, blending through brown to gray at the tip. Not black, which also helps eliminate several species such as Pelagic Cormorant and Brandt's Cormorant.

Gape: Pointed, helping to further eliminate Double-crested.

Scapulars and coverts: Pointed, helping to further eliminate Double-crested and supporting Neotropic.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
This is my first observation of Neotropic Cormorants. I have seen hundreds or thousands of Double-crested Cormorants throughout North America, plus dozens to hundreds of Pelagic and Brandt's Cormorants in California, Oregon, and Washington.
References consulted: None at the time of observation. Sibley Guide to Birds was consulted in the write-up.
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Ryan P. O'Donnell
Observer's address: 1098 Crescent Dr
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Leah Waldner and Craig Fosdick observed the birds with me in the field. Others had previously seen and reported these birds on the Utah Birdtalk/Birdnet listserve, which prompted our visit.
Date prepared: 27 Apr 2010
Additional material: Photos