General Description

The Great Cormorant has a black body with a yellow and white face. When breeding the birds have a white patch on the lower body above the legs. The legs are black and the hooked bill is grey. Juveniles are dull brown with a dull yellow throat pouch. Bill to tail length is up to 85 cm. They are Australia's largest cormorant. Great Cormorants look quite similar to Little Black Cormorants, Phalacrocorax sulcirostris, a similar but smaller and completely black species.


Great Cormorants nest in large colonies, commonly with other waterbirds including other cormorant species, spoonbills, herons and ibises. The colonies are along coastlines, inland waterways and wetlands. Breeding occurs throughout the year in response to food availability. Each nest is a large platform structure constructed from sticks, usually in a low tree near water. Occasionally, the nest is built on the ground. They feed mainly on fish but will also eat frogs and invertebrates including crustaceans. They dive underwater to catch their prey, using their feet to propel themselves along. Dives can last up to one minute. After diving, cormorants perch with their wings held out to the side to help their feathers dry.


Europe, North America, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, China and Australasia. In Australia, they occur throughout the mainland and in Tasmania.


Large freshwater water bodies, wetlands, estuaries and coastal inlets.

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