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Great Cormorant: Exploring the Majestic Waterbird

This article was written by EB React on 23/05/2023

Habitat and Distribution

As a bird specialist, I have been captivated by the Black Shag, an impressive waterbird known for its exceptional diving abilities. In this article, we will delve into the habitat and distribution patterns of these magnificent birds, shedding light on their preferred environments and the regions they inhabit.
Habitat of the Large Cormorant :

The large black Cormorant, scientifically known as Phalacrocorax carbo, can be found in various habitats across the globe. These birds are primarily associated with aquatic environments, such as coastal areas, estuaries, lakes, and rivers. They display a versatile nature and adapt well to both freshwater and marine habitats. 
In coastal regions, Great Cormorants often establish breeding colonies on cliffs, rocky islets, or even man-made structures like piers and jetties. These locations provide them with easy access to their main food sources—fish. Inland, they can be seen on lakeshores, reservoirs, and riversides, where their diving skills come in handy for catching fish and other aquatic prey. 
Distribution of the Great Cormorant:
The black Cormorant is widely distributed across Europe, Asia, Africa, and parts of North America. In Europe, it can be found from the Arctic regions to the Mediterranean, with large populations in countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Denmark. 
In Asia, these birds are commonly sighted in regions such as Japan, China, and India. They are known to undertake seasonal migrations, often traveling long distances to seek suitable feeding grounds. During the non-breeding season, they may even venture as far south as Africa and Australia. 
North America is home to two subspecies of the Large Cormorant—the White-breasted Cormorant and the Double-crested Cormorant. The Double-crested Cormorant, in particular, has a wide distribution across the continent, ranging from coastal areas to inland lakes and rivers. 
It is interesting to note that the Great Cormorant's distribution has expanded in recent decades. These birds have successfully colonized new areas, thanks to factors such as the availability of suitable nesting sites and an abundance of fish populations. However, their expanding populations have also raised concerns about potential conflicts with fisheries in some regions. 

Understanding the habitat preferences and distribution patterns of the Large Cormorant provides valuable insights into the ecological needs of these remarkable birds. By studying and conserving their habitats, we can ensure the continued survival of the Great Cormorant and appreciate the vital role they play in our aquatic ecosystems. 

Physical Characteristics

Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo)

A beautyfull great cormorant

A large seabird, the species belongs to the Phalacrocoracidae family. This family includes 3 genera and 36 different species. It lives over a very wide range spanning Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa, and part of North America. According to a recent census, the European population is estimated between 310,000 and 370,000 pairs, i.e. 3 times higher than 30 years ago. 


The adult bird has black breeding plumage, however there are some blue-green reflections. The back of the animal is completely gray with dark ribbons. The tail is black and quite long compared to the body of the bird. The head is also black, showing some white feathers on the crest. Throat and cheeks are white. The tail is black and quite long compared to the body of the bird. The cormorant's eye is emerald green. Legs, toes are black. Singularity of this species, it has webbed feet, an indisputable asset facilitating the swimming of the bird. One can see during the nuptial period, a significant white spot on the thigh. 


Size :84 to 98 cm
Wingspan: 130 to 160 cm
Weight: between 2000 and 3700 g
Longevity: 20 years

Nesting and reproduction 
Nesting period: April to June
Number of broods: 1
Number of eggs: 3 to 4 eggs of 58 g, white
Hatching duration: 28 to 31 days
1st flight: 48-52 days


The black cormorant feeds mainly on live fish, however, it can also eat crustaceans, molluscs and amphibians that it tracks in the mud and mud, some specimens do not hesitate to attack small birds. Since fish are its favorite prey, so it can catch and swallow one and a half kilogram fish, now the bird is most often content with small, easily ingestible fish.


An infallible fishing technique, the cormorant is an excellent fisherman, as fish is an integral part of its diet, it dives under water from the surface, in order to capture nearby prey. However, it can fish on the bottom, because the animal knows from experience that schools of fish live in deeper areas. Its legs are largely webbed, an undeniable advantage, but it is its eyes equipped with sufficiently deformable lenses to adapt to aquatic vision that allows cormorants to be a formidable fisherman.


The nest is built near the feeding place, it is a large structure composed of sticks and algae, the interior of the building is lined with finer materials. Both parents are busy building the family nest, it is mostly placed either on a low tree, on the ground, or on cliff ledges with steep slopes that are difficult to access.

The female lays an average of 3 to 4 white eggs. Incubation lasts about 28 to 31 days, both parents mutually protect their broods. At hatching the juveniles are fed by the two adults for several weeks, they are fed at the beginning by regurgitated liquid, later when the chicks have their first feathers, they will be fed by solid food which they will take directly in parents throat.

Their first flight will take place 50 days after birth, but the young birds will still remain under the protection and feeding of the adults.

Conservation Efforts and Challenges

Over the years, various organizations and bird enthusiasts have actively worked to conserve the Great Black Cormorant and its habitats.

These efforts include:

1- Protected Areas and Sanctuaries:
Designating protected areas and sanctuaries has been crucial in preserving the natural habitats of the Large Cormorant. These protected zones provide safe breeding grounds, ample food sources, and undisturbed resting sites for these birds. 

2- Nesting Site Management: 

Many conservation programs focus on managing and protecting the nesting sites of the Cormorant. These sites are often vulnerable to disturbance and human encroachment. By implementing measures such as erecting signage, establishing buffer zones, and limiting human access during breeding seasons, nesting sites can be better protected. 

3- Research and Monitoring:

Extensive research and monitoring initiatives have helped gather valuable data on the population trends, migratory patterns, and breeding behaviors of the Great Black Cormorant. This information is crucial in developing effective conservation strategies and identifying potential threats to their survival. 

4- Challenges and Threats: 

Despite conservation efforts, the Cormorant faces several challenges that jeopardize its existence. These include: 

5- Human Interactions: 

Interactions with humans can be both accidental and intentional. Fisheries may view Great Cormorants as competitors, leading to conflicts due to their voracious appetite for fish. Additionally, habitat destruction, pollution, and disturbance caused by human activities can impact their breeding and foraging grounds. 

6- Climate Change: 

The effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events, pose a significant threat to the Large Cormorant and its habitats. These changes can disrupt their feeding patterns, breeding cycles, and overall ecosystem dynamics, leading to population declines. 

7- Overfishing and Pollution:

Overfishing in water bodies can deplete the fish stocks that this species relies on for sustenance. Furthermore, pollution, including oil spills and plastic waste, can contaminate their foraging areas, affecting their health and reproductive success. 


EB React / Editor

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