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Townsend's Cormorant

Townsend's Cormorant

The definitive website on wildbirds & nature

Birds of America

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.


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[Brandt's Cormorant.]

[Phalacrocorax penicillatus.]


Two specimens of the Cormorant here represented were sent to me by Mr. TOWNSEND, who procured them at Cape Disappointment in the beginning of October, 1836. They are both marked as males, and agree nearly in colour, but differ somewhat in the length of the bill, and in the extent of the bare space at its base. One of them seems to be in its first plumage, the other in that of the adult. Nothing, I believe, is known of the distribution or habits of this species, which I have honored with the name of its discoverer.

PHALACROCORAX TOWNSENDI, Townsend's Cormorant, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v.p. 149.

Male, 35; wing 12 1/2; tail 6 3/4.

Cape Disappointment, Columbia river. Common.


Bill about the length of the head, rather slender, nearly straight, compressed toward the end. Upper mandible with the dorsal line considerably concave, until on the unguis, where it is decurved, the ridge convex, flattened toward the end, separated from the sides by a Darrow groove, the sides convex, the edges sharp and nearly straight as far as the unguis, which is decurved, convex above, acute, its tip extending nearly a quarter of an inch beyond the level of the dorsal outline of the lower mandible. No external nostrils. Lower mandible with the angle long and very narrow towards the end, filled up by an extensible membrane, which extends to the level of the angle of the mouth, the outline of the crura very slightly convex, that of the terminal part descending and slightly convex, the sides convex, the edges sharp and inflected, the tip compressed, with its marginal outline decurved.

Head rather small, oblong. Neck long, and rather thick. Body full, elongated, and depressed. Feet short, stout, placed far behind; tibia feathered in its whole length; tarsus very short, strong, much compressed, covered all round with angular scales, of which the anterior are larger, a series on part of the inner side anteriorly, and another on the lower part of the outer, scutelliform. Toes all placed in the same plane, connected by reticulated webs, and covered above with numerous broad but very short oblique scutella; first toe smallest, fourth longest. Claws rather small, strong, compressed, acute, convex above, arched, that of the third toe pectinated on its inner edge. Plumage soft, generally blended, compact on the back and wings, glossy on the head, hind neck, and rump; the feathers on the head and neck oblong, on the back ovato-elliptical. The small gular sac, and the space before and beneath the eye, with the eyelids, bare. Wings of moderate size, broad; primaries curved, pointed, the first, second, and third with the inner web cut out toward the end, the first three and a half twelfths shorter than the second, which is longest, but exceeds the third only by one-twelfth; secondaries long and rounded. Tail of moderate length, very narrow, much rounded or cuneate, of twelve narrow strong-shafted feathers.

Bill yellow, with the ridge brown; gular sac and bare skin about the eyes orange. The upper part of the head and hind neck are dusky, tinged with green, the hind part of the back greenish-black; the rest of the upper parts brownish-grey, each feather margined with black. The quills are also brownish-grey, edged with black, the outer primaries and the tail-feathers black. The sides of the head, the fore part of the neck, and the breast light yellowish-brown, the middle of the neck in front darker, the sides, abdomen, and tibial feathers, shaded into brownish-black, tinged with green. On the sides of the neck and on the hind part of the sides of the body are a few scattered white piliform feathers with a terminal pencil of filaments.

Length to end of tail 35 inches; bill along the ridge 2 1/2; along the edge of lower mandible 3 4/12; wing from flexure 12 1/2; tail 6 9/12; tarsus 2 1/2; first toe 1, its claw 7/12; second toe 1 10/12, its claw 6/12; hind toe 2 8/12, its claw 6/12; fourth toe 3 1/2, its claw 5/12.

Another individual, apparently a bird in its first plumage, has the head and upper part of the fore neck darker, the middle of the breast lighter, the feathers on the back margined with greyish-brown and an inner band of dark brown. Its bill is longer, but more slender, the unguis less curved, the feathers not entirely obliterated from the space before the eye, and extending farther on the gular sac. It is obviously however of the same species.

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