cormorant

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The cormorant is a bird known for its ability to dive deep underwater to catch fish. They are excellent swimmers and can stay underwater for several minutes at a time. Certain species of cormorants can even swim to depths of 150 feet! In addition to their diving abilities, cormorants are notable for their black, glossy plumage and long, hooked beaks. Some also find it interesting that cormorants have been known to use tools, such as rocks, to help them open the shells of their prey.

There are more than 40 different species of cormorants in almost every country in the world. Their exact number is unknown, but it is estimated to be in the millions. Because of their global success, they are not considered at risk of extinction, although specific species in some parts of the world may be threatened or endangered by local conditions, including habitat loss and pesticides and other Pollutants to the natural environment.

Cormorant Amazing Facts

  • Cormorants can hold their breath for several minutes before diving down to 150 feet to fish.
  • They use different vocalizations to communicate, including honking or grunting.
  • Certain species of cormorants have been known to use tools such as rocks to help them catch prey.
  • They are often seen perched on rocks or trees near bodies of water, spreading their wings to dry.
  • Cormorants have complex courtship rituals that include bowing, flapping their wings, and clapping their hands.
  • These birds are generally unpopular with fishermen due to their high efficiency at catching large numbers of fish.
cormorants sunning their wings
Cormorants are often seen perched on rocks or trees near bodies of water, spreading their wings to dry.

© iStock.com/Brian Lasenby

where to find cormorants

Cormorants can be found on every continent except Antarctica, and in almost every country in the world. They are usually associated with bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and coastlines, and often perch on rocks or trees near the water's edge. They are also commonly found near fishing boats and other human settlements, as they are attracted to areas with abundant fish supplies. They can be seen even inland, especially during seasonal migrations.

scientific name

Cormorants are designated as part of the classes Aves, Peliciformes, and Phalacrocoracidae families. Phalacrocoracidae is a family of birds that includes more than 30 different species, all of which are known for their ability to fish deep underwater. Some of the best-known species in this family include the great cormorant, European cormorant, and double-crested cormorant. The name Phalacrocoracidae comes from the Greek words "phalakros", meaning "bald", and "korax", meaning "crow". This refers to certain species of cormorants having a patch of skin on their neck that looks bald.

Cormorants are sometimes called by other names, depending on the region or species. For example, great cormorants are also known as black cormorants, great cormorants, or sea crows. The European Shag is also known as the Common Shag or the Blue Eye Shag. The double-crested cormorant is sometimes called the American cormorant, water turkey, or Florida cormorant. In some cases, cormorants are also simply called "cormorants," although the term is used to refer to other types of birds as well. Also, some may use the term "cormorant" to refer to any bird capable of diving deep underwater to fish, even though it's not actually a member of the Phalacrocoracidae family.



Cormorants have black, glossy plumage, usually black, brown or gray
Cormorants have dark, glossy plumage, usually black, brown or gray.

© iStock.com/Richard Konstantinov

Size, Appearance and Behavior

Cormorants are medium to large birds, with most species measuring between 24 and 40 inches in length. You can compare this to the length of a baseball bat that is 29 to 34 inches long. The cormorant's slender body and long hooked beak are perfect for fishing. Cormorants have dark, glossy plumage, usually black, brown or gray. Some species also have white or yellow patches on the face or chest.

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Cormorants are known for their ability to dive deep underwater to catch fish, and they are skilled swimmers. These birds are well adapted to their aquatic environment. They have long, streamlined bodies and webbed feet, which make them powerful swimmers and divers. Cormorants have waterproof feathers, which help them stay warm and dry while in the water. They also have special glands near their eyes that secrete an oily substance that helps keep their feathers waterproof. This adaptation allows them to spend long periods of time underwater in search of fish, their main source of food. In addition, cormorants have sharp, hooked beaks that are perfect for catching and eating fish.

The cormorants' fishing prowess has made them unpopular with some fishermen who demand that the birds be controlled in their areas to prevent them from catching all the fish. Various methods have been used to try to scare them away, including balloons and noise makers. Cormorants are very intelligent and quickly realize that these pose no real threat, so the methods used must often be changed. On the other hand, some fishermen in China fish with tightly tethered cormorants.

In addition to their hunting behavior, cormorants are also social birds, often seen in flocks, especially when nesting. They communicate with each other using a variety of vocalizations and perform a number of different courtship rituals.

Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) eating carp
Cormorants have sharp, hooked beaks that are perfect for catching and eating fish.

©iStock.com/CreativeNature_nl

evolution and history

Birds similar to cormorants lived in the age of dinosaurs. Gansus yumenensis, the earliest known modern bird, has a body structure very similar to that of a cormorant. Researchers have yet to figure out the evolutionary history of cormorants, but believe they originated in the southern hemisphere, possibly even Antarctica, before Antarctica was covered by ice. They likely diverged from a related species, the dartfish, during the Late Oligocene epoch, 339,000 to 23.03 million years ago.

The first "modern" cormorants are thought to have emerged in the Late Paleogene period, between 660 and 23.03 million years ago, after the extinction of the dinosaurs. At that time, most of Europe and Asia were covered by shallow seas. Cormorants are probably a freshwater species from South Asia. From there, they spread across Eurasia and around the world.

cormorant habitat

The cormorant is a water bird found on every continent except Antarctica. They are usually associated with coastal areas, but can also be found in inland lakes and rivers. Cormorants are good at swimming and diving, and they often nest near water with other cormorants or water birds. Some species of cormorants live in tropical regions, while others live in temperate or colder climates. In general, cormorants prefer shallow water where schools of fish are plentiful, and can nest on the shore or in trees.

Cormorants are migratory birds, which means they migrate from one place to another at different times of the year. The specific migration patterns of cormorants may vary by species and habitat. Some cormorants may migrate long distances between breeding and wintering grounds, while others may only migrate short distances. Generally, cormorants migrate in response to changes in temperature and food availability. As the weather cools, cormorants may migrate to areas where the water does not freeze and there is an abundant supply of fish. Some cormorants may also migrate to avoid competing with other cormorants for food and nesting sites.

cormorant near water
Cormorants are good at swimming and diving, and they often nest near water with other cormorants or water birds.

©Gary A. Edwards/Shutterstock.com

cormorant diet

Cormorants are carnivorous birds that mainly feed on fish. They are skilled swimmers and divers, and they use their sharp hooked beaks to catch and eat a variety of fish. Cormorants may also eat other aquatic animals, such as crustaceans, molluscs and amphibians, depending on the resources available in their environment. In some cases, cormorants may also eat small mammals, birds, and reptiles (if they can catch them). Cormorants are opportunistic feeders and will eat as much food as they can find and digest. A cormorant can eat a few small fish a day, or a big fish, and doesn't need to eat again for a few days. In general, cormorants have a varied diet, depending on the availability of food in their environment.

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Predators, Threats, and Protection Statistics

what do cormorants eat

Cormorants are prey for a variety of animals, depending on where they live and their life stage. For example, adult cormorants may be predated by larger birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and hawks, which may attack and eat them. Cormorants may also be preyed upon by larger fish such as sharks and barracudas, which may attempt to eat them while in the water. Juvenile cormorants or chicks may be predated by a variety of animals, including other birds, mammals and reptiles. Specific predators for cormorants may vary depending on habitat and food availability.

What threats do cormorants face?

Cormorants face a variety of threats, some natural and others caused by human activities. Some of the natural threats cormorants face include predation, disease and adverse weather conditions. Cormorants may also face threats from human activities such as habitat loss, pollution and overfishing. These threats can affect cormorant population size and distribution, and in some cases, they may even lead to the extinction of certain cormorant species. Conservationists and wildlife managers must monitor cormorant populations and health in order to identify and address potential threats to the species.

What is the conservation status of cormorants?

In general, cormorants are widely distributed and have a conservation status of "no concern". However, there are more than 40 of them, and some species are more threatened, depending on local environmental factors.

Legal protections for cormorants may vary by habitat and specific species of cormorant. They are legally protected in many countries and regions around the world. In the United States, for example, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 provided protection for many species of cormorants, as well as other migratory birds. The law makes it illegal to hunt, kill or capture cormorants without a permit. In other countries, cormorants may be protected by national or regional laws regulating hunting and habitat protection. These laws are designed to protect cormorants and other wildlife species from harm and promote the protection of natural habitats.

swimming cormorant
Cormorants have special glands near their eyes that secrete an oily substance that helps keep their feathers waterproof.

©iStock.com/Wirestock

Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

cormorant breeding

Cormorants are social birds that usually nest in large flocks or flocks. The exact mating rituals of cormorants vary by species and habitat. Generally, cormorants pair up during the breeding season and engage in various courtship behaviors to attract a mate. These behaviors may include singing, dancing and showing off their brightly colored feathers. Cormorants can also use materials such as twigs, twigs, and leaves to build their nests together.

Once a pair of cormorants has bonded, they mate and lay eggs. The number of eggs that a cormorant lays may vary depending on the species of cormorant and the individual bird. Generally, cormorants lay 2 to 6 eggs per clutch, with most species laying 3 to 4 eggs. Eggs are usually laid every two days and the female cormorant incubates them until hatching. The incubation period may vary by species and climate, but is usually between 25 and 30 days.

Magellanic cormorant in the nest
Once a pair of cormorants has bonded, they mate and lay eggs, with the female brooding them until they hatch.

©iStock.com/THIERRY EIDENWEIL

cormorant baby

Cormorant chicks are born blind and covered in downy feathers. They are usually late born, which means they are naturally helpless and dependent on their parents for food, warmth and protection. The chicks will be cared for by both parents, who bring them food. The exact diet of cormorant chicks will vary depending on the cormorant species and the availability of food in the environment. Generally speaking, the food of cormorant chicks is small fish, crustaceans and other aquatic animals that are easy to swallow and digest. Parents will bring food back to the nest and regurgitate it for the chicks.

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As the chicks grow and develop, they begin to forage for food on their own under the guidance of their parents. After 3-4 weeks, the chicks begin to leave the nest but will return to the nest to feed. At 5-6 weeks they begin to fly, and at 9-10 weeks they are fully grown and independent, able to hunt and feed themselves on their own.

cormorants and chicks
Cormorant parents bring food back to the nest and regurgitate it for their chicks.

©iStock.com/Prensis

cormorant lifespan

Cormorants can live up to 22 years old, but usually only 6 years old in the wild. Some of the common health problems that cormorants may face include disease, injury, malnutrition and parasites. Cormorants may be susceptible to infections or diseases that affect their respiratory, digestive or reproductive systems. They can also be injured by predators, other animals, or human activity. If cormorants do not have access to an adequate food supply, they may become malnourished. They may also be infested by insects or other organisms that feed on their blood or tissue. Generally speaking, cormorants are resilient animals, but they can still be affected by a range of health problems.

cormorant population

The total number of cormorants worldwide is unknown because there are so many species on every continent in the world except Antarctica. It is safe to say that they number in the millions and that their total population is stable. While they are generally not considered threatened with extinction, certain cormorant species may be becoming rare or in decline in certain areas due to habitat loss, pollution, and other human activities.

animals similar to cormorants

  • Pelicans – Compared to cormorants, pelicans are larger, fly better, and have a large pouch under the beak to aid in catching fish. They are not as agile in the water as cormorants.
  • Herons – a type of water bird like cormorants, have a similar diet. It is larger than a cormorant and has no waterproof feathers, so it is less suitable for diving and swimming.
  • Ibis – The ibis feeds on fish and other aquatic animals, but it is a wading freshwater species, not a diving seabird.
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  • great egret
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They exist in almost every country in the world. They are amazing swimmers and divers. They are very intelligent and sometimes release schools of fish to help them hunt and use rocks as tools for killing their prey.

Cormorants fish aggressively and with great success, making them unpopular with many fishermen. They also attack other birds and may steal their food and nests. They are not usually aggressive towards humans, although there are anecdotal reports of someone attacking a bird after inadvertently startling it while hunting.

Some of the non-lethal methods people use to try to scare off cormorants include balloons, wires or flotation lines, or sound-making devices. The methods used must change unpredictably so that birds do not get used to them and ignore them.