Great Cormorant IdentificationBy
Given reasonable looks, most winter cormorants in New Jersey are pretty easy to identify. The plumage and soft part characters usually distinguishing Double-crested and Great Cormorants are well known, and even single Greats usually appear so bulky and thick-necked as to be immediately distinctive.
Young birds are probably the easiest of all. As we all know, young Double-cresteds are pale-necked and dark-bellied, young Greats just the other way around. There are occasional pale Double-cresteds, though, and I’ve seen such individuals called Great Cormorants by even otherwise experienced birders.
It might be worth pointing out that when a Double-crested Cormorant is extensively white beneath, it seems always to be just that: bright cold creamy white. Great Cormorants, on the other hand, appear never to be unmarked below, but rather always blotched and splotched like the bird in the photograph.
If my “nevers” and “alwayses” hold up, this is another arrow, or at least a tiny blunt dart, in our ID quiver for these two species, both of which are worth looking for just about anywhere there’s open water in a New Jersey winter.