GREAT CORMORANT – (Phalacrocorax carbo)
The Great cormorant is a large bird, at about one meter (3 ft) long and a wing span of about 150 cm (60 in.). It is widespread in the world. It is black with a white chin and a partly yellow bill. The feet also are black.
The name ‘cormorant’ (also part of the Latin name) refers to the fact that in the past this species was considered as some type of ‘sea raven’. The great Cormorant is called black shag in New Zealand, where it is very common and widespread (photo below).
As with other cormorants, the great cormorant will dry its wings for a few minutes after a dive by spreading them while standing upright (photos below), which is quite an unusual sight in the bird world. One would think that Nature would have provided diving birds such as cormorants with waterproof feathers, so that they would not need to dry them after each dive. Apparently this question is not entirely resolved.
The great cormorant feeds from fish, and is a very good diver. Because of their great efficiency at getting fish by diving, they are generally considered as competitors by fishermen. However in some countries like China and Japan, fishermen have tamed cormorants and actually use them for fishing.
To do this, a line is tied around the throat of the bird to prevent them from swallowing their catch. Fishing boats bring several of the birds in a given expedition, starting at dark on a river. This tradition is still alive today, mostly for tourists though.
The great cormorant is found along sea coasts but also inland along rivers or lakes. These birds build their nest in colonies along cliffs or on trees. In North America, their breeding range is along the northern part of the Atlantic coast. Their wintering range is south of that area, but there are some year-round locations in-between.
A great cormorant was rescued in Newfoundland in March 2018 by a retired wildlife biologist and his wife, and released back to sea.
The great cormorant breeds on PEI and is common. Although no photos are available for this bird on PEI, below are some from Japan and New Zealand, and videos from Japan and Connecticut. The photos from Japan show a breeding bird with white head plumage.
This video shows the same bird as above in Japan:
And this video shows another great cormorant in Japan on a pond at the Tokyo Imperial Gardens: