Where does the name — Cormorant? It turns out that we borrowed this word from the Turkic dialect, as we called the red duck or the well-known roast. And the Tatars called cormorants geese. Cormorant, nevertheless, is considered an inedible bird, due to the strong smell of fish from the carcass, as well as a large amount of subcutaneous fat.
Origin of the species and description
The cormorant originated from the pelican order and belongs to the cormorant family. This water bird is one of the best underwater hunters. There are more than 30 species of cormorants, they settled all over the globe! Even in our country, you can find about 6 varieties of these birds.
The names of the species most often depend on the external features of the birds, or on their habitat, here are some of them that can be especially remembered:
- Great Cormorant — this is the most traveled species, loves flights, it can be found on the territory of Russia, Europe, Africa and many other countries;
- Japanese — named after its habitat;
- Crested — named so because of the prominent tuft on the head, listed in the Red Book;
- Small — named for its size;
- Chubate — sedentary cormorant lives in southern Africa. Among the features of appearance are red eyes and a crest;
- Red-faced — lives exclusively in exotic places in the Pacific Ocean. Head skin bare;
- Eared — lives in North America, and has eyebrows above the eyes;
- Indian — named after the place of residence, has the smallest weight – 1 kilogram;
- Bougainville — looks like a penguin;
- Galapagos — does not fly. Lives on the islands and weighs up to 5 kilograms;
- White — one of the rarest species, named for the color of its feathers;
- Auckland — named after living in the Auckland Islands, and has a beautiful black and white coloration.
An interesting fact: there is also an extinct species of cormorants, this is the Steller’s cormorant, it was not a flying species and reached a weight of 6 kilograms.
Appearance and features
The average cormorant weighs about 2-3 kilograms, the male is always larger than the female. Juveniles are brown with lighter plumage, while adults are black with a bronze cast on the back and a yellow halo around the eyes. Some subspecies have white spots on the body. There are also varieties of Cormorant, in the plumage of which there are also colored motifs.
The cormorant looks like a goose. The body of a large cormorant can grow up to 100 centimeters, but the wingspan will be 150, which looks very impressive. The cormorant’s beak is powerful, often yellow and bent at the end, like a lock or a hook, they also have massive webbed paws and a movable neck, nature gave all this to the Cormorant for the convenience of catching fish.
The cormorant hunts in an unusual way, it tracks prey in the water, is in a semi-submerged state, or only one head sticks out, having tracked down the target, it silently dives and hits the poor fellow like an arrow, then breaks its gills with its beak and swallows it. The voice of cormorants is low and deep, it seems as if it is screaming or barking heart-rendingly.
An interesting fact: the cormorant seems to fly under water, it is able to work not only with its legs, but also with its wings.
Where does the cormorant live?
The cormorant is a migratory bird and as soon as the fish runs out in its favorite reservoir, it flies to warmer places , more often it is the Mediterranean or North Africa. But the South Asian cormorants are more fortunate, they have a lot of fish, and it does not end, so they practically do not migrate.
If the cormorants waited for the freezing of the reservoir on which they lived, they winter in warm regions, but return with the first movements of ice, of course, these representatives of birds cannot be found in the coldest parts of the world. Cormorants live all over the world and as proof of this, here is a list of where they can be seen most often:
- Canary Islands;
- North Africa;
- Aral Sea;
- Pacific islands.
In each country, cormorants have a special attitude, in some they are destroyed for sabotage, because cormorants are not always friendly, they can attack a boat with a catch and capsize it into the water, in private fish farms they eat the lion’s share of the fish population.
An interesting fact: in some countries, for example, in Asia, Cormorants are used as a live fishing rod, surprisingly, a ring is put on the bird’s neck, a leash is tied and released for hunting, the Cormorant starts to catch fish out of habit, but cannot swallow because of this ring on the neck! As a result, the prey is taken away by the fisherman and the bird is again released for hunting. In Japan, they take adult birds for hunting, but in China, on the contrary, they prefer young ones and train them.
What does a cormorant eat?
The cormorant feeds exclusively on fish and feeds its chicks with it, it does not prefer any or a separate species, rather, it depends on the location of the bird. Carried away by hunting, he can swallow mollusks, and frogs, turtles and even crayfish, in general, everything that gets into the beak during the hunt.
Cormorant swallows small fish immediately, while raising its head up, but large ones have to be eaten on the shore, although the cormorant’s beak is powerful, it can not cope with any catch. There are cases that a cormorant can swallow terrestrial insects, a snake or a lizard, but this is rare. The cormorant is a diurnal bird, they usually hunt 2 times a day, while one individual eats an average of 500 grams of fish, and this is only for one hunt, a kilogram is obtained per day, but sometimes more, they were disliked for their voracity.
Hunting often takes place with their direct relatives pelicans, they fish at the surface of the water, and cormorants at depth. Cormorants hunt, both alone and in packs, they simply track down a school of fish and drive it into shallow water, loudly flapping their wings in the water column, aground already mercilessly with it and deal with it.
An interesting fact: a cormorant can eat small stones to improve digestion.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Cormorants, having found fishing places, will constantly return there. An interesting fact: a cormorant can hunt and live both near sea water and fresh water, the most important thing for them is to nest near a reservoir. Small species of these birds can even live on bolts, having great agility due to their size.
The cormorant is not whimsical in choosing a place to build a nest, it can twist them both on trees and on rocks, in the reeds, even just on the ground. They make nests from branches, sticks and leaves. All types of cormorants are a collective bird and usually settle in fairly impressive colonies, this is done for more successful hunting and for the safety of their offspring.
These birds love their neighbors, so they willingly live near any bird population, as well as penguins or fur seals. It is extremely rare, it is possible to see only cormorant settlements, most likely it will not last long and long-awaited neighbors will settle in very soon. Also, they often allow other birds to hunt together. Cormorants are agile only in water, on land they are completely opposite creatures that are not comfortable to move around.
An interesting fact: Cormorants cannot take off from flat ground, they must take a run, they usually take off from the surface of the water, but this also requires a lot of effort from them, the easiest way is for them to fly up from tree branches or rocks.
Social structure and reproduction
This species of birds is monogamous, having once created a pair, it can live with it all its life. Cormorants are very prolific. Their puberty occurs at about 3 years, depending on the variety, once they are mature, they have an adult outfit. The mating season is mainly in the spring, as it becomes warmer, but in some regions there are exceptions.
Cormorants settle in colonies, they can reach huge sizes up to 2000 nests. It happens that when organizing such large settlements, they unite with the families of other birds living in the neighborhood. The female lays up to 6 eggs, but this is the maximum, so one of them may be empty. The eggs are blue in color and are incubated alternately by the two parents. Incubation lasts about a month.
When the long-awaited offspring is born, they take care of them, just as parents together, replacing the protection of the chicks, to get food and water for them. Cormorants feed children in the morning and evening. Chicks are born naked and completely defenseless, so parents are forced to stay close to them around the clock. From the hot sun, they cover the chicks with their wings, in some cases they bring cold seaweed to the nest.
Up to six months, babies need care, when the first plumage appears, they try to fly, but this is not always successful. If the nest is located on a tree, then the young growth hone their skills of crawling and climbing. It happens that cormorants turn out to be so caring parents that they feed their offspring even until they start their own family.
Natural enemies of cormorants
The cormorant is a social, trusting bird, and this is what most often plays a cruel joke with them. The gray raven is one of the sworn enemies of the cormorant, they usually act together, one individual lures an adult cormorant out of the nest, and the second at this time steals their eggs for eating together. It also happens that nearby gulls or starlings hunt eggs. Perhaps that is why cormorants leave ruined egg clutches unfinished and create new ones.
For already hatched chicks, wild foxes, raccoons and other small predators that live in the area of the cormorant settlement are dangerous. For an adult cormorant, these enemies are not terrible, since it has a powerful body and beak, it will easily fight back, but, unfortunately, the offspring suffer. Since the cormorant is not an edible bird, they are not hunted. But their babies, not yet strong and just hatched from eggs, can become a delicacy for passing fishermen or hunters.
The tendency to a large number of settlements is most likely due precisely to the possibility of preserving the chicks as much as possible. There are even whole species of cormorants that are protected because they cannot breed, their nests are constantly devastated, for example, the Crested and Lesser cormorant.
Population and species status
The number of cormorants is by no means uneven and depends only on food resources. And also from the number of bred offspring. Because of their gluttonous disposition, they cause quite significant harm to private fish farms and periodically undergo their mass destruction, which sometimes completely wipes out the population in a certain region, however, when birds were shot without permission, it was noticed that the fishermen did not get a bigger catch, but there were much more sick fish in the nets.
The forests in which cormorants lived often dry up and lose their leaves because the trees near which they live or used to live die because of their droppings, the same as that of many other fish-eating birds. The litter is called guano, it differs from ordinary litter by a very high nitrogen content. This is due to the presence of exclusively fish in the diet.
In many countries, guano is in great demand, it is considered almost the best fertilizer. For some types of plants, such as cotton, guano has become a godsend. To obtain the coveted droppings, special beacons are placed in places where birds gather, so that fish-eating birds sit down and rest while hunting them, then excrement is collected.
Cormorants live relatively shortly, about 6-7 years in nature, but cases were recorded when they lived up to 20 years, but this is in the reserve. Feeding a cormorant in captivity is quite difficult, because of its voracity, they always demand more and more. Cormorant — this is a free sea hunter, no matter how people try to train him, he is a free bird.