Double-Crested Cormorants Are NYC’s ‘Living Gargoyles’: Gothamist
Hello, Double-crested Cormorant, you have Caught. Our. Attention. This beast of a bird is not new to New York, in fact, we’re pretty sure it has come to life out of a stone sculpture attached to the side of one of our old buildings.
Birdwatcher Gloria (at the Twitter handle Lucent508) has captured some great shots of the gorgeous creature, and tells me, “I think they look like living gargoyles.” Agreed. They have an almost ancient look to them, but also—like our friend Charlize Heron—it seems as if it came to life in Jim Henson’s studio, and is not natural to our world. These birds—and there are many in NYC—have striking turquoise eyes that match the inside of their mouths. What hath evolution done to you, bird? What purpose do your strange features serve?
The NPS has some more “cool” facts about our new friend, like that “during the breeding season, the skin on their throat turns bright orange.” They also note that they like to hang out on “artificial structures.” Just like gargoyles. You know what else? They build nests from other dead birds. Listen, I’ve never seen Game of Thrones, but I truly believe this bird deserves whatever the Iron Throne is.
Game of Turtle Thrones. (Shutterstock)
On top of all that, its feathers aren’t “waterproof,” so when they rest they often do so still like a statue, their wings spread open to help them dry off. That statuesque pose only adds to the allure of this wonderful weirdo.
“It looks menacing as it spreads its wings to let them dry while it perches near water,” David Barrett at Manhattan Bird Alert tells me, adding that these birds are “a great two-sport athlete… [they] can fly fast and far, and it also can dive long and deep to catch fish.” Indeed, it looks part-bird/part-beast. “It has a pterodactyl look to it,” he says.
Whatever you think the Double-Crested Cormorant looks like, this Frank Sinatra blue eyed gargoyle motherf–ker comes in multiples. “They migrate together… I have seen flocks of forty flying over the Hudson and even over Central Park,” Barrett told me. Terrifying. Beautiful.
If you want to catch a glimpse of this stunner, your chances are good. “These birds are common throughout the area all year,” Barrett says. “Though Central Park generally does not have any during the few coldest months, you see dozens of them all year on the rivers and around NY Harbor… They range widely during the day, traveling between the Hudson, Central Park, and the Randall’s Island area.” He believes the Central Park Reservoir becomes home to around eight of them during spring and autumn.
And if you think these beasts can’t be whimsical, well, as Gloria notes, “I think ballerinas get inspiration for their costumes from birds like this. They are beautiful.” Someone please make a NYC Wildlife ballet. Thank you.
— 🦆👁 (@ilonacohen) April 3, 2019
— Dennis Newsham (@wildnewyork) April 3, 2019