Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2009-15

Common name:

Neotropic Cormorant

Scientific name: Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Date: August 23, 2009
Time: 1 p.m.
Length of time observed: Observed: 30 min
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: unknown
Location: Fishing pond NW of 5400S. 1070W. intersection, Murray
County: Salt Lake
Latilong: 6, 40 deg 30 min 19 sec/111 deg 55 min 24 sec
Elevation: 4250 feet
Distance to bird: 50-60 feet
Optical equipment: 8 x 42 binoculars, scope w/20-60x eyepiece
Weather: Sunny with a few clouds, breezy, 80 degrees
Light Conditions: Bright
Description:        Size of bird: ~ two feet long, beak to tail
(Description:)       Basic Shape: elongated head and neck, body, tail
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: dark, sooty brown
(Description:)            Bill Type: fish-snagging; 3-4", elongated, prominent hook
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Dark sooty brown overall; head and neck an almost imperceptible lighter shade, but still very dark.

Bare parts:
Beak: Several inches long and narrow, with a prominent hook on the end. Upper mandible about half the length of the head from front of the head to the nape and sooty; color similar to plumage. Lower mandible with gular pouch longer than upper due to projection back onto the face. Mandibles came together in a point (pointing toward the nape) that ended just below and behind the eye. Lower mandible drab orangish.
Eyes: Green, reptilian. Not sure if orbital ring was bare or not, but pattern was alternating ring of sooty brown and lighter specks. Pretty cool-looking pattern to offset the eye.
Feet: Webbed, black, with nails at the end of the toes. Tarsi: black and thick.

Head: Long, arching crown smoothly tapering into throat and neck. Two short, white pin-like horizontal feathers on right side of head about halfway between eye and nape. Filoplumes blew around in the wind. Possibly one in same location on left side of head. Base of lower mandible clearly outlined in white against feathers of throat. Looked like a chinstrap when bird faced observers head-on. Neck somewhat narrower at base than head, but not by much. Did not observe color of loral feathering.

Body: Elongated, more bulbous at upper breast, back flat and horizontal when swimming. Back feathers/wing coverts with a somewhat silvery aspect over the sooty brown, with a dark edge to each feather giving a heavily scalloped effect.

Wings: Did not observe dorsal surface except for coverts mentioned above; underside pattern very similar to Turkey Vulture with black wing linings and silvery flight feathers.

Tail: Somewhat fanned showing outer retrices much shorter than deck feathers with separation between individual feathers so tail looked spiky. Length was just longer than half the length of the body from base of the neck to base of the tail. Tail appeared especially long in relation to body length when splayed flat on water while bird was swimming.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: None heard.
Behavior: Standing alone on a partly submerged tree stump in a small, urban fishing pond. Bird seemed relaxed and did not become alarmed by walkers and families passing as close as 30-50 feet on shore or at a pier. Sometimes closed eyes as if to sleep. Preened. Jumped into water and dove, submerging fully several times; flew a short distance and landed near parties fishing.
Habitat: Shallow urban fishing pond with partly submerged tree stumps, river nearby.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Double-crested Cormorant: Proportions different than review bird, including bulkier head in relation to neck and longer bill length relative to overall head length. Tail appears much shorter in relation to body than NECO's long-tailed appearance. DCCO's bill is bright orange on both mandibles and gular patch, rather than dark-dusky on upper mandible and drab orange on lower and gular. DCCO's gular patch/back edge of gape does not end in nearly as sharp a point as NECO's, nor is lower edge outlined in white. DCCO lacks white filoplumes on side of head.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
None with NECO; extensive with DCCO.
References consulted: After recording notes: Sibley, Cornell's BNA, Records 2007-26, 2008-16, and Utah Birds photo gallery.
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Kristin M. Purdy
Observer's address: 1961 Arapaho Circle, Ogden, UT 84403
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Pomera Fronce
Date prepared: August 23, 2009
Additional material: Images by Pomera Fronce
Additional_Comments: Notes recorded independently of photo. Please note that image shows dark lores, despite the fact that I forgot to notice that while observing the bird.