As I drove across the Glaciated Plain of Illinois this morning, a linear flock of double-crested cormorants passed overhead, on their way to breeding grounds farther north. After wintering on southern lakes or along the Gulf Coast, the inland cormorants of North America head for reservoirs and freshwater lakes from the Great Lakes Region to the Intermountain West; most breed across the Northern Plains of the U.S. and Canada, east of the Rockies.
Colonial nesters, double-crested cormorants often choose wooded backwaters where they build their bulky nests in drowned trees; others opt for barren islands where nests are placed directly on the ground. Heavy-boned and harboring less oil in their plumage, cormorants are excellent divers, feeding on a wide variety of fish; when not hunting, they often rest on tree limbs, channel posts or other man-made structures with wings spread to dry.
Today's flock was a welcome sight in the clear blue sky, just another sign that spring is gaining momentum in the Northern Hemisphere. Then again, a cold front is expected to drop through the Midwest this weekend, bringing chilly rain and possible flurries.