Antarctic Peninsula

Name: Cormorant is a catch-all name for multiple sub-species (Phalacrocorax). Species include:

  • Antarctic shag
  • Auckland shag
  • Australian pied cormorant (a.k.a. yellow-faced cormorant)
  • Bank cormorant (a.k.a. Wahlberg’s cormorant)
  • Brandt’s cormorant
  • Bronze shag (a.k.a. Stewart Island shag)
  • Bounty shag
  • Campbell shag
  • Cape cormorant
  • Chatham shag
  • Crowned cormorant
  • Crozet shag
  • Double-crested cormorant (a.k.a white-crested cormorant)
  • European shag (a.k.a common shag)
  • Flightless cormorant
  • Great cormorant (a.k.a. black shag)
  • Guanay cormorant
  • Heard Island shag
  • Imperial shag (a.k.a blue-eyed shag)
  • Indian cormorant
  • Japanese cormorant (a.k.a. Temmick’s cormorant)
  • Kerguelen shag
  • Little cormorant
  • Little black cormorant
  • Little pied cormorant
  • Macquarie shag
  • Neotropic cormorant (a.k.a. olivaceous cormorant)
  • Pelagic cormorant (a.k.a. Baird’s cormorant)
  • Pitt cormorant (a.k.a. Featherstone’s shag)
  • Pygmy cormorant
  • Red-faced cormorant
  • Red-legged cormorant (a.k.a. red-footed shag)
  • Reed cormorant (a.k.a. long-tailed cormorant)
  • Rock shag
  • Rough-faced shag (a.k.a. king shag)
  • Socotra cormorant
  • Spectacled cormorant
  • Spotted shag
  • South Georgia shag
  • White-bellied shag
  • White-breasted cormorant

Length: 45 – 100 cm wingspan (depending on type of cormorant).

Weight: 340 g to 5 kg.

Location: Coastal worldwide (except central Pacific islands).

Conservation status: Depends on species.

Diet: Eels, fish, smaller water snakes.

Appearance: Black backs and wings, white face and bellies. Hooked bill. Somewhat pelican-like.

How do cormorants feed?

Cormorants are expert divers, some types of Cormorant diving as deep as 45 metres. They speed along underwater via their webbed feet, using their wings as rudders.


Some colonies of cormorants have been observed herding fish for more efficient hunting.

Are cormorants social?

Cormorants are colonial nesters, with colonies holding up to 4,000 individuals. Many species also hunt together.

How fast do cormorants fly?

Some species of cormorants can attain speeds of up to 55 km per hour.

What are cormorant birthing rituals like?

Cormorants become sexually mature at around 2 to 3 years of age. This maturity seems to partially depend on food availability – more food available in the area leads to younger breeding ages. 


Nesting sites are variable, reflecting at least in part the availability of food. Nests can be on rocky cliff faces, in trees, or on the ground. 


On average, 3 to 5 eggs are laid, but survivability is often low and not all will survive. Hatching occurs about 1 month after the eggs are laid. The chicks will then remain in the nest for a further 2 months.


The chick is fed with regurgitated food that is pulled out of the adult’s throat.

How long do cormorants live?

Cormorants live up to a maximum of about 25 years.

Do cormorants have any natural predators?

Cormorant young and eggs are prey to larger predatory birds like eagles, gulls, and crows. Colonies on the ground can be vulnerable to foxes and racoons.

7 Cool Cormorant Facts

  • Cormorants have short wings for a flying bird due to their need to swim. Because of this they have the highest flight cost of any flying bird.
  • The species name comes from the Greek words phalakros meaning “bald” and korax meaning “raven.”
  • The name “cormorant” is a contraction of the Latin words corvus and marinus which taken together mean “sea raven.”
  • Cormorants share many features of another kind of bird – the shag. Depending on whom you ask, their might not be any relevant distinction at all since “cormorant” refers to a number of different birds.
  • All versions of the cormorant have glands that secretes an oil used for keeping the feathers waterproof. However this gland is not efficient enough so cormorants are quite often seen with their wings spread out in or to dry them.
  • Certain cultures (e.g. Chinese, Grecian, Japanese, Macedonian) would use cormorants for fishing. A loop was tied around the cormorants’ throats allowing them to only swallow smaller fish, leaving bigger fish trapped in their bills, which the fishers would retrieve.  
  • Cormorants are pellet-makers. They create pellets out of the bones and scales of the fish they eat and spit it out, much like some owls.   

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