Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)


Cormorant Drying Wings
Cormorant Drying Wings
Cormorant Feeding
Cormorant Feeding

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Cormorants range in weight from 3.3 to 6.6 pounds and can reach up to approximately 35 inches in length. They have large wings that span approximately 48 inches. They have a long sleek black body and a long beak with the tip hooked downward. They have bare yellow to orange skin around the face and chin. A breeding adult has two long white crests on the top of the head that resemble overgrown eyebrows and is where its name comes from. They have beautiful, shimmering turquoise colored eyes.


Cormorants can be found in a wide range of aquatic habitats from rocky coasts to lakes, rivers, and small ponds. They construct their nests on the ground, in trees, shrubs, rocky cliffs, and man-made structures.

Predators and Prey

They prey mainly on small fish such as yellow perch and alewives. They catch their pay by diving and then chasing them by swimming underwater. After catching its prey it then swims to the surface flips the fish upward and swallows it head first.

Predators in the past have been human pesticide use such as the spraying of DDT, More recently, humans have destroyed their eggs by covering them with oil or otherwise damaging them. Humans used other methods to deter cormorants from breeding such as harassment of adult birds, lethal control of adults, and spreading netting to deter breeding.

Native or Invasive

Cormorants are not an invasive species. They are a migratory bird that was first officially recorded in in Lake Champlain in the 1930's. In 1981, thirty-five birds were recorded on Young's Island and now the summer population of Cormorants on Young's island is about 15,000. This is why some people classify them as a "nuisance" species.

Form vs. Function

The cormorant's long slender body allows it to pierce the surface of the water as it goes after fish. Its webbed feet and aerodynamic body allows it to swim fast under water in order to track down prey. The long tipped beak allows it grasp and hold its prey after a successful dive.

The cormorants long wingspan provides it with the lift needed to glide over the water while hunting its prey. It is common for an aquatic bird to have oily feathers to provide water proofing, The Cormorant's feathers are much less oily providing reduced buoyancy that allows the bird to stay under water for long periods of time. This is why the Cormorant can often be seen standing with its wings spread wide in order to dry off after a swim.

Interesting Facts

When building nests cormorants use sticks and sometimes use strange materials such as: plastic scraps, old rope, parts of dead fish, and more.
Sometimes large pebbles are found in the nest and the cormorant treats these like their eggs.On Lake Champlain's Young and Four Brothers Islands so many cormorants have nested large amounts of their guano (bird pooh) has damaged vegetation and affected other bird populations, yuck! The oldest known double-crested cormorant was 22 years old.


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