Phalacrocorax carbo - Great cormorant:

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Summary Information
Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Ciconiiformes / Phalacrocoracidae / Phalacrocorax / Species
Alternative Names Common cormorant, Large cormorant, Aalscholver (Dutch), Grand Cormoran (French), Kormoran (German), Cormorán grande (Spanish), Storskarv (Swedish).
Description Weight:
  • 1810-2810g


  • 80-100cm

External Appearance:

  • Adult: Eye emerald green, Bill grey with culmen black and lower mandible base yellow, legs black. Upperparts and underparts metallic blue-glossed black, short crest. Chin and sides of head white patch, crown, upper neck, lower throat variable elongated white feathers, base of leg white patch. Wings black, with secondaries outer webs bronzed.
  • Juvenile: Eye brown, Bill yellow with darker culmen, legs black. Plumage More brown, with underparts variably paler.
  • Nestling: Eye grey-brown, Bill pink with black tip, legs brown-black. Naked initially skin brown-black, black down from six days old

(B1.w3, B2)

Range and Habitat
  • Phalacrocorax carbo carbo Eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland to Norway and British Isles.
  • Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis central and southern Europe, east to India and China.
  • Phalacrocorax carbo hanedae Japan.
  • Phalacrocorax carbo maroccanus north-western Africa.
  • Phalacrocorax carbo lucidus coastal western and southern Africa, and inland East Africa.
  • Phalacrocorax carbo hovaehollandiae Australia (including Tasmania), New Zealand, Chatam Islands.

London: In the London Area, a breeding resident, for example at Walthamstow reservoirs and Broadwater Lake. Counts of over 200 birds are regular at Walthamstw, Queen Mary, Staines, Wraysbury, Queen Elizabeth II and Walton reservoirs, and is also seen in Inner London, for example seen at 14 sites during 2000, with 30 birds visible on the Thames at Lambeth Bridge in early March. (J322.65.w1)

Movement: northerly populations migratory or partially migratory (e.g. Canadian and Greenland birds may reach New Jersey, even Florida), elsewhere sedentary or dispersive.

Habitat: Marine (sheltered areas, estuaries and coasts) and inland open water - lakes, reservoirs, wide rivers, flood waters etc. 

(B1.w3, B2)

Further Information
  • Food: fish, also crustaceans and amphibians.
  • Feeding: Mainly pursuit-diving.
  • Breeding: Temperate northern hemisphere mainly April to June, but all year in tropics. Colonial breeder, often mixing with other colonial species for breeding (cormorants, herons, darters, spoonbills, ibis). Nest on cliff ledges, on ground among boulders, trees, bushes, reedbeds, also on bare ground and on human structures. Nest of sticks, reeds, seaweed, with finer lining, built by both parents, male mainly supplying material. 2-6 (average 3-4) eggs, incubation 27-31 days (B107), 28-31 days (B104), hatching asynchronous, cared for and fed by partial regurgitation by both parents (once by each parent each day), brooded continually initially, fledge about 50 days but cared for a further 50 days. One brood, may re-lay if eggs lost. Occasionally sexually mature by two years old, usually 3-5 years.
  • Breeding behaviour: Seasonal monogamous pair bond, may be longer lasting.
  • Social behaviour: Often gregarious, sometimes form large fishing flocks.

(B1.w3, B2, B104, B107)

(See also Population Control of Birds - General)

Organisations (UK Contacts):

Electronic Library (further reading):

General Legislation:

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Individual techniques:

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