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Neotropic Cormorant

Phalacrocorax brasilianus

Length: 26 inches Wingspan: 40 inches Seasonality: Rare Visitor
ID Keys: Similar to Double-Crested Cormorant, with longer tail, yellow throat pouch with sharp white border in breeding plumage

Pelagic Cormorant - Phalacrocorax brasilianusThe Neotropic Cormorant is very similar to the Double-Crested Cormorant, and is sometimes found with them.  Neotropic Cormorants are found throughout the American Tropics up through Texas, but have been expanding their range northward in recent decades, with breeding now frequent in parts of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Louisiana.  In South Dakota they are rare visitors, but Neotropic Cormorants are increasingly found as scattered vagrants throughout many parts of the United States.

They are formerly known as the Olivaceous Cormorant.


Neotropic Cormorants are found both in coastal waters and inland fresh water or brackish water.  They may be found in a wide variety of habitats, particularly outside of the breeding season. They tend to hunt shallower waters than some other cormorant species. 


Neotropic Cormorants mostly feed on small fish, but are opportunistic and will take other vertebrates and invertebrates if the opportunity arises. This may include frogs, tadpoles, insects, and crustaceans.


Neotropic Comorants primarily forages by diving from the surface and swimming underwater after prey, propelled by its feet.  Groups of the species sometimes forage cooperative, driving fish into shallow water. It's not a common behavior, but Neotropic Cormorants are the only cormorant species known to also plunge dive, spotting prey while in flight and then plunging down into the water bill first in an attempt to capture it.

As with other cormorant species, Neotropic Cormorants are sometimes seen sunning themselves with their wings spread. As they dry their plumage, they also often preen, spread oil from a gland near the tail throughout their feathers.


Non-breeder in South Dakota. In their breeding range, Neotropic Cormorant males first scout out nesting sites, and then attempt to attract a mate by spreading its wings, calling, and swaying. Once a couple bonds, they collaborate to build a nest, with males gathering and delivering nesting material, and the female using those materials to actually construct the nest. The nest is a loose platform of sticks, lined with smaller material such as leaves, grasses, weed stems, feathers, and sometimes whatever man-made material they happen to come across. The female lays 2 to 6 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them. The young hatch after about 24 days, with both parents helping to raise them.


Neotropic Cormorants are often silent outside of the breeding season, but do have the capability to make grunting and croaking sounds. Males will call from a perch near a "proposed" nesting site to try to attract a mate.


Neotropic Cormorants are generally considered a permanent resident throughout its range.  Normally found in the extreme southern U.S. and Mexico, the Neotropic Cormorant is expanding its range northward, but is still a very rare visitor to South Dakota. In newly expanded breeding areas, it may be only a summer resident, moving southward short distances for the winter.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Neotropic Cormorant sightings

Similar Species:

Neotropic Cormorants are only likely to be confused with one species in South Dakota, but in other parts of their range could potentially be confused with other species as well.

Double-crested Cormorant 11 - Phalacrocorax auritus Double-crested Cormorant 15 - Phalacrocorax auritus Anhinga - Anhinga anhinga Anhinga - Anhinga anhinga
Double-crested Cormorant Double-crested Cormorant Anhinga (male) Anhinga (female)

Conservation Status: Populations of Neotropic Cormorants had declined sharply by the mid-20th century, but have been recovering since that time. Systematic surveys in recent decades show both increases in overall populations, and an expansion of range to the north. They are found across a broad geographic area, are common in parts of that range, and overall populations are strong. The IUCN considers the Neotropic Cormorant to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

December 28th, 2018 - Gilbert Water Ranch, Phoenix, Arizona - Terry Sohl

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Neotropic Cormorant - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Extremely rare visitor, with only a handful of records in the state.

Additional Neotropic Cormorant Photos
Neotropic Cormorant 1 - Phalacrocorax brasilianusNeotropic Cormorant 2 - Phalacrocorax brasilianusNeotropic Cormorant 3- Phalacrocorax brasilianusNeotropic Cormorant 4- Phalacrocorax brasilianus