Cormorants are medium-to-large, fairly long-necked seabirds, similar to the pelican and gannet. Being legendary birds since prehistoric times, they have evolved into seabirds that prefer freshwater fish. The name ‘cormorant’ has been derived from the Latin words ‘Corvus Marinus’, which means ‘marine crow’ or ‘sea raven’. Cormorants are also known as shags in some parts of the world. They have slender, hooked beaks; a patch of bare skin under the mouth; and a stiff tail. All the four toes on each foot of cormorants are webbed, which helps them in swimming and chasing fish underwater. They have been labeled as nuisance birds, though they are appreciated for their fishing skills. They are known to damage and scar fish, therby increasing the risk of disease, stress and behavioral changes in the fish. As a result it becomes hard to catch fish. Many fisheries and conservation organizations are concerned about the decline in the population of eels and salmons. To know more interesting facts and amazing information on cormorants, read on further.
Group Name: Flight, gulp, rookery, sunning, swim
Length: 2-3 feet
Weight: 340 g – 5 kg
Lifespan: 4-5 years
Diet: Mainly fish, some mollusks & crustaceans.
Habitat: Mainly marine but regularly seen on inland waters such as lakes and rivers in many areas.
Age of Sexual Maturity: 2 years
Gestation Period: 3-4 months
Number of Offspring: 2-6 per year
Interesting & Amazing Facts About Cormorants
- Cormorants are found along the coast of Great Britain and rest of Europe, Africa, Asia, eastern North America and Australia.
- They are excellent swimmers and float low in the water, with only their head and neck showing.
- These birds can dive as deep as 100 feet and the longest recorded dive has been of 71 seconds.
- Cormorants fly like a goose, with their neck stretched out, head held up and rapid wing beats. In fact, they are strong fliers.
- The newly hatched cormorants are blind for the first three days and naked as well, with the skin just like black leather. The skin later grows to a curly, dark grey down.
- The young ones stay in the nest for 55 days, after which they form large flocks with other young and adult cormorants.
- Cormorants are used by fishermen in Asia to prevent other birds from grabbing their catch.
- The cormorant family represents some 40 species, like double-crested cormorant, great cormorant, Indian cormorant, Cape cormorant, Brandt’s cormorant, red-faced cormorant, black European cormorant, pygmy cormorant, flightless cormorant, white-breasted cormorant and Temminck’s cormorant, to name a few.
- Majority of the cormorant species, nearly all in the Northern Hemisphere, have dark plumage, while some of those in the Southern Hemisphere are black and white and a few of them can be found colorful as well, like the Spotted Shag of New Zealand.
- All cormorants are fish-eaters, their prey mainly consisting of small eels, fish and even water snakes.
- Cormorants are colonial nesters that make use of trees, rocky islets and cliffs to lay eggs.
- In summers, their plumage is blue-black and glossy, with white on the cheeks and throat and a patch on the thigh. In winters, this plumage changes to less glossy, with brown mottling on the white areas, except for the thigh patches that disappear completely.
- Cormorants were used by fishermen to catch fish in Asia. They would tie a string around their neck and leave them in the water. Since their necks would be tied they would not able to swallow the fish, therefore, they take it out when they come to the boat.
- Cormorants do not go far and deep into the sea in search of food. They stay close to the coastline and look for fish. Once they find fish for each of them, they come out of the water to eat.
- When one cormorant dives, the others follow.
- Colonies of cormorants, especially during the breeding season, comprises of thousands of these birds.
- A cormorant usually spans its wings out, which as though to be an act of drying them after coming out of water, but now it is held that it helps in digestion.