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Great Black Cormorant | by ianmichaelthomas
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Great Black Cormorant

This one of many wild and free Great Cormorants that make the wetlands of RMZ home.


Great Cormorant

Scientific name: Phalacrocorax carbo

Family: Phalacrocoracidae

Order: Pelecaniformes

The Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), known as the Great Black Cormorant across the Northern Hemisphere, the Black Cormorant in Australia and the Black Shag further south in New Zealand, is a widespread member of the cormorant family of seabirds.

Great Cormorants are probably the most widespread member of the cormorant family with a range that includes North America, Europe, Africa, China, India, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Australia. It occurs throughout most of Australia but is more numerous in the south-east and south-west.

The Great Cormorant is the largest of the Australian cormorants (70 - 90 cm) and is one of the largest in the world. It is almost entirely black in plumage, apart from a white and yellow chin and a small white patch on each thigh (absent in winter). The bill is grey and the legs and feet are black. Young birds resemble the adults but are more dusky-brown.

The Great Cormorant can be distinguished from the noticeably smaller (58 - 63 cm) Little Black Cormorant, P. sulcirostris, which is completely black and has a thinner bill.

It occurs throughout most of Australia but is more numerous in the south-east and south-west. In spite of its preference for extensive areas of permanent freshwater, it is not confined to these and is often observed on coastal inlets and estuaries.

Like other cormorants, the Great Cormorant feeds predominantly on fish, supplemented in freshwater by crustaceans, various aquatic insects and frogs. The Great Cormorant is an excellent swimmer and captures its food in shallow underwater dives, normally lasting up to one minute. Underwater it swims and pursues prey using its feet, but not its wings. Outside of the breeding season small groups are formed although birds are often seen fishing alone.


Royal Melbourne Zoo, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

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Taken on April 26, 2009