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Neotropcic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus 

Breeding and non-breeding adult Neotropic Cormorants

At a glance

Primarily South and Central American freshwater species

Limited breeding distribution in West Indies (Bahamas and Cuba)

Not migratory

Not considered a species of conservation concern, but little regional information is available.



Small size [58-73 cm (23-29 inches) in length], long tail, and yellowish throat patch should distinguish it from other cormorants in the region. In adults and immatures this throat patch is thinly bordered with white. Often seen in small flocks. Plumage varies between juveniles, immatures and adults. Voice: guttural, pig-like grunts. Adults know to live for at least 12+ years.


Throat pouch smaller, pale yellowish-brown in color with white border and ‘v’ shaped in comparison to that of Double-crested Cormorant. Tail proportionally longer than Double-crested. White tufts on sides of head.


Totally brown, lacks white border to gular pouch; immatures have suggestion of gular pouch border, underparts, including neck light off white. Tufts on sides of head lacking.

Alternative Names

The Neotropical Cormorant, P. brasilanus is the currently accepted name, but this bird appears as the Olivaceous Cormorant, P. olivaceus, in many recent publications.

English: Mexican Cormorant

French: Cormoran vigua

Spanish: Cormoran biqua, Pato negro, Pato puerco, Pato cordo, Cuervo marino.


This cormorant probably constitutes a superspecies with the Double–crested Cormorant with which it is marginally sympatric. The northern portion of the West Indies region is one such area of overlap. Two subspecies recognized. P. b. mexicanus occurs in southern United States, Central America and the Bahamas and Cuba.

Likely locations

Coastal areas throughout region, as breeding species primarily in Bahamas and US Virgin Islands. Typically feeds inshore but can forge far at sea.


For the most part a freshwater South American species with estuarine populations adjacent to coastal areas along northern South American coast, Central America, and the upper Gulf of Mexico north and east to Texas and Louisiana. Also in Cuba and the Bahamas. Non-migratory to short-range migrant in upper Gulf of Mexico. This is not primarily a marine species.

In West Indies region, known to breed in the Bahamas (San Salvador, Cat Island, and Great Inagua) and Cuba (Isle of Youth); wanders to Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico.

Neotropic Cormorants


At sea

Not a marine species but adaptable and found in brackish and marine habitats. In coastal sites remains inshore, mostly sheltered bays and inlets. Not migratory. Feeds by pursuit diving, but unlike all other cormorants also by plunge-diving. Feeds mostly on small (18-230 mm) shallow water fish.

At the nest

Information from studies outside the region. Colonial with a course platform of sticks for the nest. Typically 2-4 light sky blue eggs, with chalky white deposits. Incubation period 22-26 days. Begin swimming and diving near colony at 8 weeks, parental care continues for 11 weeks. Independent by 12th week. Young or adults will occasionally disperse up to 65 km from breeding colony

Current Population 

Total global population unknown. US population has fluctuated in recent decades; 3,000 pairs in Louisiana and 500 pairs in Texas (Clapp and Buckley 1984) but estimated later at 16,000 individuals [less than 8,000 pr.] (Kushlan et al 2002). Currently expanding.

Cuban populations have increased in recent decades probably as a result of fish farming and rice plantations. This may account for increased number of reports for other West Indies islands. Size of West Indian breeding populations unclear, but populations are not large and probably fewer than several 1,000 pr.
Area Estimate Source
Louisiana 3000-6000 Clapp and Buckley 1984; Kushlan et al. 2002
Texas 500-2000 Clapp and Buckley 1984; Kushlan et al. 2002
Bahamas <1000  
Cuba <1000
Total ~10000

Conservation Status

Continentally, this is a common species in freshwater and estuarine habitats and excluding local peripheral populations it is not a species of conservation concern. Increasing in numbers and distribution in southern United States and to some extent in Cuba, but remains relatively uncommon in West Indies region.

Conservation Needs

Tolerant to a wide variety of aquatic habitats, and to vehicular traffic, boating, and fishing. Cuban population expanding; exploits reservoirs and fish farms. Is intolerant of close approaches to nest. No obvious current conservation needs. This bird’s limited dispersal simplifies implementing any needed local conservation initiatives This species remains largely unstudied (except for interactions with fish farms in US) and no known surveys or studies within West Indies. Studies of Cuban and Bahaman breeding population are warranted.


Selected References

Clapp, R. B. and P. A. Buckley 1984. Status and conservation of seabirds in the Southeastern United States. Pages 135-155 in J. P. Croxall, P. G. Evans and R. W. Schreiber (eds). Status and Conservation of the World’s Seabirds. ICBP Tech. Publ., No. 2. 778 p.

Kushlan, J.A. et al. 2002. Waterbird Conservation for the Americas: The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan, Version I. Waterbird Conservation for the Americas, Washington, DC. 78 p.

Telfair, R. C. II and M. L. Morrison. 1995. Neotropical Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus). In The Birds of North America, No 137 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and The American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C.

Compiled by: Dave Lee and Will Mackin

West Indian Breeding Seabird Atlas by Will Mackin and David Lee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on work at www.wicbirds.net. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.wicbirds.net.

Suggested Citation: Lee, D. S., W. A. Mackin. 2009. Neotropic Cormorant. West Indian Breeding Seabird Atlas <http://www.wicbirds.net/neco.html>. Last Updated: _____. Date accessed: ______.

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