Birds of the World

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ANECDOTES

 
 
 
 

TRAITS
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Totipalmate Swm

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PASSERINES
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Pelecaniformes - Phalacrocoracidae
 
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Pelecaniformes
Families: Tropicbirds, Gannets and Boobies, Pelicans, Cormorants, Anhingas, Frigatebirds,
      Hamerkop, Shoebill
 
Skip to:  
All Tropicbirds, All Sulids, All Pelicans, All Cormorants, All Anhingas, All Frigatebirds,
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
 
Skip to:  
Plunge Diving, Relative Sizes of Pelicans, Identifying Frigatebirds
 
Species:  
Red-tailed Tropicbird, Blue-footed Booby, Nazca Booby, Australian Pelican,
Brown Pelican (Galapagos), Peruvian Pelican. Pied Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant,
Brandt's Cormorant
, Neotropic Cormorant, Rock Cormorant, Imperial Cormorant,
Red-legged Cormorant, Flightless Cormorant, Great Frigatebird
 
Images:   
Red-billed Tropicbird, Blue-footed Booby, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant,
Anhinga, Magnificent Frigatebird, Totipalmate toes, Gular pouch, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Masked Booby, Northern Gannet, Brown Pelican. Anhinga, Great Frigatebird
 
  Family Phalacrocoracidae - Cormorants, Shags
Wiki     ToL     EoL
EXAMPLE
  There is a single genus, Phalacrocorax, but some authors list 4-9 genera. Sibley and Monroe (1990) list 38 species (given below), Dickinson (2003) lists 35 species, Hughes (2009) lists 36 species, and Clements (2007) lists 39 species. Worldwide except tropical islands and northern Eurasia. They are usually found in colder coastal waters and are absent in open oceans. Several species use interior freshwater lakes (our Double-crested Cormorant is considered a pest species on the Great Lakes).
   Cormorants appear to be more closely related to darters and Sulidae (and pelicans/penguins?) than other living birds. They appear to be an ancient group.
   Cormorants or shags (their European name) are medium-sized to large fish-eating birds with a long neck and a laterally-compressed bill, hooked at the tip (I have bled from that hook!). Their legs are short and near the end of the body so they stand upright. Their tail is relatively long and stiff. Sexes are alike. Northern species are mostly black and southern species may have white areas underneath - the are "pied." The head is often crested. Bare facial skin may be brightly colored. The gular pouch is moderately large and their nostrils are largely obliterated. Their bills are compressed and hooked. The furcula is not fused to the carina sterni. They do not have air sacs in the skin. Their feet are fully webbed for swimming (totipalmate) and they also perch on a variety of structures. Their feathers have no aftershaft. Their eyes are adapted for both aerial and under-water vision.
   Cormorants may feed solitarily but are often gregarious and may coordinate their movements to corral prey. They often fly close to the water in lines or "V" formations with a continuous flapping flight (they don't soar or ride thermals like pelicans). They do not plunge dive. They may swim with just the head and neck exposed. Cormorants feed on fish which they capture by diving from the surface and pursuing them underwater (some reach depths of 45 m). Most fish are brought to the surface before they are swallowed. They regurgitate pellets containing undigested fish bones. They use both their large webbed feet when they pursue prey underwater and usually hold their wings against the body. They pursue their prey visually.
   Note that cormorants have "wettable" plumage and they must spread their wings to dry after feeding (Anhingas are our only other species to do this - both groups have vestigial preen glands). Wet plumage may increase the density and decrease the buoyancy of these foot-propelled divers, thereby reducing the work they have to do to stay submerged underwater. After feeding, however, they need dry their wings before they can fly.
    Cormorants attain the adult plumage and breed after 2 - 4 years. They nest in colonies, often in mixed colonies. Nests are built on bare islands, rocky cliffs or in trees near water. Both parents build the nest, the male providing most of the material and the female doing most of the building in most species. They lay up to 7 eggs and both parents incubate, holding the eggs on the webs of their feet. Both parents feed the young by regurgitation. Usually only one or two fledge. They leave the nest and join a crèche at 2-4 weeks of age. They fly first at 6-7 weeks of age.
   In China, Japan, and Macedonia, young cormorants are removed from the nest, hand reared, and trained to catch fish. They have a ligature tied around their neck that allows them to swallow only small fish. Larger fish are returned to the fisherman in the mouth or gular pouch.

   Phylogenetically, cormorants can be divided into several clades:

Basal Lineage 1 - Microcormorants (small freshwater species, Old World and Australia - black feet, almost all dark plumage, small frontal tuft) -
    Little Pied, Long-tailed, Crowned, Little, and Pygmy Cormorants.
Basal Lineage 2 - Red-footed Shag (west coast of South America - no close living relatives).
Blue-eyed Shags - American species such as our Double-crested Cormorant, Rock Shag from South America, and numerous species from the
    Pacific and sub-Antarctic waters (including King and Imperial Cormorants).
North Pacific Shags - Bering Strait to California (including Brandt's, Spectacled, Pelagic or Baird's, and Red-faced Cormorants)
Indian Ocean Shags - Persian Gulf to Australia (including Little Black, Indian, Socotran, Pied and Black-faced Cormorants)
Spotted Group - New Zealand (Spotted and Pitt Cormorants)
Cape Cormorant - Africa
True Cormorants -  Western Atlantic to Australia   (Great, White-breasted and Temminck's Cormorants)
Flightless Cormorant - incertae sedis. Galapagos
 
  All Shags:

   Little Black Cormorant, Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
- Australasian region to Malay Archipelago.
   Double-crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus - Aleutian Islands south to Gulf of California, Gulf of St. Lawrence west to Utah and south to
      coastal Florida, the Bahamas and Cuba.
   Indian Cormorant - Phalacrocorax fuscicollis - India and southeastern Asia
   Neotropic Cormorant, Phalacrocorax brasilianus - southern US to Tierra del Fuego, Bahamas, Cuba, Isle of Pines.
   Great Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo - Northern Europe to southern China, coastal northwestern Africa south of the Sahara to Cape Verde
       Islands, Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Chatham Islands, North America (winters to the Gulf Coast).
   Cape Cormorant, Phalacrocorax capensis - southwestern Namibia and southern South Africa.
   Socotra Cormorant, Phalacrocorax nigrogularis - Persian Gulf.
   Bank Cormorant, Phalacrocorax neglectus - Namibia to southwestern Cape Province.
   Japanese Cormorant, Phalacrocorax capillatua - seacoasts and islands of northeastern Asia.
   Brandt's Cormorant, Phalacrocorax penicillatus - coastal south Alaska to Baja California.
   European Shag, Phalacrocorax arisotelis - Iceland, Scandinavia to Iberian Peninsula, Mediterranean coast and islands, west coast of
       Morocco.
   Pelagic Cormorant, Phalacrocorax pelagicus - coastal northeastern Asia, Bering Sea, Arctic Ocean south to Baja California.
   Red-faced Cormorant, Phalacrocorax urile - islands off northern Japan to coastal south Alaska.
   Rock Shag, Phalacrocorax magellanicus - coasts of Chile, Argentina and the Falklands.
   Guanay Cormorant, Phalacrocorax bougainvilli - coast and islands off Peru and Chile.
   Pied Cormorant, Phalacrocorax varius - coastal and interior Australia, coastal New Zealand.
   Black-faced Cormorant, Phalacrocorax fuscescens - coastal southern Australia, Tasmania, islands in Bass Strait.
   Rough-faced (King) Shag, Phalacrocorax carunculatus - islands in Cook Strait, NZ.
   Bronze Shag, Phalacrocorax chalconotus - coasts of Otago, Stewart and South Islands, NZ.
   Chatham Islands Shag, Phalacrocorax  onslowi - Chatham Islands.
   Auckland Islands Shab, Phalacrocorax  colensoi - Auckland Islands.
   Campbell Islands Shag, Phalacrocorax campbelli - Campbell Islands.
   Bounty Islands Shag, Phalacrocorax ranfurlyi - Bounty Islands, NZ. Vagrant to the Antipodes.
   Antarctic Shag, Phalacrocorax bransfieldensis - South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula.
   South Georgia Shag, Phalacrocorax georgianus - Southern Georgia, South Sandwich, South Orkney Islands.
   Imperial Shag, Phalacrocorax atriceps - coast and islands of southern Argentina and Chile, Falkland Islands.
   Heard Island Shag, Phalacrocorax  nivalis - Heard Island (south Indian Ocean).
   Crozet Shag, Phalacrocorax  melanogenis - prince Edward, Marion, Crozet Islands.
   Kerguelen Shag, Phalacrocorax  verucosus - Kerguelen Island (south Indian Ocean).
   Macquarie Shag, Phalacrocorax  purpurascens - Macquarie Island.
   Red-legged Cormorant, Phalacrocorax gaimardi - coastal Peru and Chile, southern Argentina.
   Spotted Shag, Phalacrocorax  puncatus - New Zealand, Stewart Island.
   Pitt Island Shag, Phalacrocorax featherstoni - Chatham Islands, NZ.
   Little Pied Cormorant, Phalacrocorax  melanoleucos - Lesser Sundas to Solomons, Australia, New Zealand, Steward and Campbell Islands.
   Long-tailed Cormorant, Phalacrocorax africanus - Madagascar, Africa south of the Sahara.
   Crowned Cormorant, Phalacrocorax coronatus - coastal southwestern Africa.
   Little Cormorant, Phalacrocorax niger - lowlands of India to southeastern Asia and northern Java.
   Pygmy Cormorant, Phalacrocorax  pygmaeus - lakes and rivers of southeastern Europe to central Asia.
   Flightless Cormorant, Phalacrocorax harrisi - Fernandina and Isablea, Gapapagos Islands.  
     
  Pied Cormorant, Phalacrocorax varius 
 
Wiki     ToL     EoL
     The Pied Cormorant, Phalacrocorax varius, is one four species found in eastern Australia. It prefers large areas of water, coastal or inland lakes, rivers, and estuaries. These pictures were taken on Moreton Island, a sand island off the coast of Brisbane. The cormorants are feeding with Australian Pelicans, Pelecanus conspicillatus. Moreton Island, Tangalooma, Australia. Pied Cormorant Pied Cormorant
     
  Banner - Double-crested Cormorants (nesting) plus a few Herring Gulls. Milk Island, off Cape Ann. MS.