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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Naperville trails lead to sightings of Double-crested Cormorants


Above / If you hear a grunting sound near a Naperville pond, it’s likely not a local pig.

UPDATE, May 24, 2017 / Double-crested Cormorants are back at Lake Osborne and May Watts Pond, diving deep under water for more than 16 seconds at a time.

Above / Since the beginning of May, Double-crested Cormorants have been landing at May Watts Pond and Lake Osborne. They’re interesting to watch and their grunting sound echoes when they nestle along the banks.

UPDATE, July 28, 2016 / While on a Thursday morning trek along the Riverwalk, loud screeching groans startled walkers who stopped in their tracks near the Jaycees Marina.

Looking up into a leafless treetop, I could see two very large birds on branches, seeming to be unhappy with each other. Since the sun was in the wrong place and the quarry prevented my getting in the right place to take a photo, my photos became silhouettes. I could barely capture the colorful distinguishing details of their images. Yet the bird with outstretched wings, suddenly familiar, let the other one know his presence. They barely moved.

Above / The adult Double-crested Cormorant is usually about 33 inches tall. The great blue heron grows to become 42 to 52 inches tall. These two birds sounded like squealing pigs and barking dogs along the Riverwalk in late July where they perched for at least 30 minutes.

Stranger than strange, when I zoomed in, my camera caught the yellow-gold face on the bird with outstretched wings.  I again identified a Double-crested Cormorant as well as a great blue heron, two types of large waterfowl typically found along the edge of local ponds and rivers. (See photos in the gallery.) Much to my surprise, after a 30-minute jaunt to Jefferson Avenue and back to the quarry, the two birds were still perched in the same tree. Who knows why!


Above / While the great blue heron has been sighted frequently on our nature walks for dozens of years, the Double-crested Cormorant with its out-stretched wings made its debut for our cameras and interest this summer. Both birds are known to roost in trees near open water. Now we know.

Original Post, July 13, 2016 / A couple weeks ago while roaming the trails and banks of Lake Osborne in Naperville, I spotted two heads on long necks of black waterfowl swimming near a great blue heron. They had yellow-orange coloring on their faces and long gray bills.

Click any photo to enlarge. First three photos were at Lake Osborne. Others taken at May Watts Pond.

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Were they black swans? Black geese? They were new to me. At first when I searched online for black waterfowl, I came up short.

Then I took my Birds of Illinois Field Guide off the shelf. There among the Canada geese, great blue heron, Mallard ducks, red-winged black birds, and goldfinch was a photo of a Double-crested Cormorant.

The page featuring the large black aquatic bird said the Double-crested Cormorant is 33 inches tall with a long snake-like neck, about the same body size as a loon.

Still, I wasn’t sure enough to make a positive identification because I had only seen the neck and head from a distance. But I figured I was close.

Then the other day while I was walking the trail in May Watts Park, I heard a loud grunting sound. When I looked toward the pond of lily pads, I saw a large black bird spreading its wings from the water as though it were about to take flight.  Could that bird be making that sound?  As I watched, I heard the loud groan again. Yes, that sound was coming from that bird.

I flashed to the images of the pair of birds from a recent visit to Lake Osborne, located a long retention area away from May Watts Pond.

duck-bookmark - CopyWhen I returned to this trusted computer, I searched for a “black waterfowl that makes the sound of a pig.”

Sure enough, I came up with an animal that matched my photos and the one in my field guide.

Here’s what it says about the Double-crested Cormorant on the website for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology “All About Birds.”

The gangly Double-crested Cormorant is a prehistoric-looking, matte-black fishing bird with yellow-orange facial skin.

Though they look like a combination of a goose and a loon, they are relatives of frigatebirds and boobies and are a common sight around fresh and salt water across North America—perhaps attracting the most attention when they stand on docks, rocky islands, and channel markers, their wings spread out to dry.

These solid, heavy-boned birds are experts at diving to catch small fish.

The Double-crested Cormorant makes deep, guttural grunts that sound a bit like an oinking pig. They grunt when taking off or landing, or during mating or aggressive displays, but otherwise are generally silent.

Look near lakes and coastlines for perched black waterbirds, smaller and with shorter legs than a heron, and a distinctive S-shaped crook in their neck.

On the water they sit low, with the head and bill usually tilted slightly upward. You may also see them holding their wings spread-eagled and sunning themselves. Flocks of cormorants fly in irregularly shaped lines or sloppy V’s. In flight, cormorants hold their head up, neck slightly bent, belly hanging low, and their wing beats are slow and labored.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the paths throughout Naperville parks that take you to the wonders of nature. You just never know what you might discover for the first time.


Comments distributed our way via Facebook:

Cormorants were once protected, but their numbers soared, and now cormorant populations need to be managed. One cormorant will eat one pound of fish per day, which is a serious threat to game fish. They can also cause damage to vegetation and habitat of local birds. Heather Whipple Donahue

Spotted in Ashbury pond as well. —Justin Karubas 

Seen in the DuPage River. —Denise Sima Bayer (Liked by Cheryl Prescott)

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PN Editor
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