Most of us must have seen this shag around water bodies and remember it perched on a tree or on the ground with its wings spread for hours together. Who knew that one day I would see them from the comforts of my home. Yes, the Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax Carbo) made it to the skies that I can see from my balcony.
There are three species of cormorants found in India, namely; Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax Carbo), Little Cormorant (Microcarbo Niger) and the Indian Cormorant (Phalacrocorax Fuscicollis). Out of them I remember seeing the Great & Indian. I might have seen the Little too but not so sure.
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‘.
Cormorant do have oil glands that help keep the feathers waterproof but they are ineffective. While having water resistant feathers protects a bird’s body from getting soaked, this oily coating isn’t great for diving. Thus, a cormorant’s feathers get waterlogged, allowing the bird to sink and dive more efficiently. Once out of water, the cormorants can be seen with their wings spread out to dry.
Historically, cormorant fishing has taken place in Japan, China, Greece, North Macedonia, and to some extent in England and France. A loop was tied around the cormorant’s throat which allowed it to swallow the smaller fishes only. The bigger ones remained trapped in their bills, which the fishermen would retrieve. This cormorant fishing is called Ukai in Japanese. The most famous location is Gifu (Nagara River) where this practice has been on for more than 1300+ years.
Cormorants are considered to be ancient, from the time of the dinosaurs. In fact, the earliest known modern bird, Gansus Yumenensis, had a similar structure.
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Great Cormorants are excellent swimmers and pursue prey underwater using its feet rather than its wings. They have been seen swallowing small pebbles for extra weight in order to dive more easily, which they vomit out after feeding.
The Great Cormorant is also known as the Black Shag in New Zealand and as the Great Black Cormorant across the Northern Hemisphere, the Black Cormorant in Australia, and the Large Cormorant in India.
Both Indian and Great Cormorants are known to be quite gregarious unlike the Little one. The Indian Cormorants indulge in cooperative fishing; wherein a large number of them gather together in water bodies and round up the prey.
Great cormorants are monogamous, with pairs sometimes reuniting in subsequent years. This species breeds at any time, depending on food resources. These birds incubate their eggs with their large webbed feet. The eggs are placed on top of their feet, where they are warmed between their feet and their body.
|Little Cormorant||Indian Cormorant||Great Cormorant|
|Head||Small with rectangular forehead||Oval-shaped head||Large and angular head|
|Beak||Small||Long and narrow||Large and thick|
|Breeding plumage||All dark||All dark with white ear tufts||Extensive white on head, flanks|
|Structure||Compact with long tail, thick neck||Slender with long tail and thin neck||Heavily built with short tail and thick neck|
|In Flight||Tail longer than or same as neck; compact||Neck longer than or same as tail; slender||Large with short tail and neck; broad wings|
|Juvenile/immatures||Pale mottling on underparts||Pale from breast down to belly||White on breast down till vent|
There are 36/38 species of cormorants worldwide. They are all fish eaters and live at sea or around inland water bodies.
Do watch out for the next post on another species from my #BalconyBirdingList
Posts shared so far on:
1. Rosy Starlings
2. Alexandrine Parakeet
3. Rose-Ringed Parakeet
4. Plum Headed Parakeet
5. Indian Spot-Billed Duck
6. Yellow-Footed Green Pigeon
7. Black-Winged Stilt
8. Indian Peafowl
9. Indian Purple Sunbird
10. Green Bee-Eater
11. Indian Silverbill
12. Black-Headed Ibis
13. Red-Naped Ibis
14. Glossy Ibis
15. Little Swift
16. Red-Wattled Lapwing
17. Wire-Tailed Swallow
18. Great Cormorant
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Monika Ohson | TravelerInMe
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