Cormorant- Hebridean Birds
Western Isles Birds - Cormorant - Birdlife and Bird Sightings in the Hebrides

For a water bird it is surprising how little time the cormorants actually spend in the water. You can see these prehistoric looking birds all around the Western Isles coasts and lochs.

A large blackish bird with long neck and bill. Swims low in water. Often seen standing on rocks and posts with outstretched wings.

These birds are almost primeval in appearance.
Snow Bunting - Bird Sightings - Isle of Harris - Western Isles
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Bird Overview - Cormorant
Cormorants and Shags
Latin name
Phalacrocorax carbo


Similar Species
The cormorant - A large blackish bird with long neck and bill. Swims low in water.

Often seen standing on rocks and posts with outstretched wings.In full breeding dress, these birds are actually very handsome, black glazed blue and bronze with a white throat, flashed in courtship display.

A few white plumes adorn the loosely crested nape formed of elongated feathers (the Continental race of cormorants have extensive white on the head.

These birds are almost primeval in appearance.

Goose size ( 90cm ) - Wingspan 130 - 160cm. The cormorant, at nearly one metre, also stands taller than the shag
The cormorants can be found on coasts and estuaries, and also inland lakes and rivers. Coastal birds breed on cliffs, while inland colonies nest in waterside trees.
Fish - prefers to eat less valuable eels and flat fish.
Guttural Croaking when at the nest and roost
The cormorant uses its large webbed feet for incubation, the eggs being carefully placed on top of the feet such so that they are warmed between the feet and the body. The young are born blind and naked and look very reptilian at this stage. There are 3 - 4 eggs which are chalky white.

Chicks hatch at intervals and at first are fed on regurgitated liquid. Later they take solid food from their parents throats.

Misc. Info
No Waterproofing
Despite spending much time in the water, they do not possess the waterproofing oil of other seabirds and so must spend much time drying their wings.

Cormorant Feathers - Barbs
Cormorant feathers have modified barbs which allow air to escape and water to penetrate the plumage. This means that they have efficient underwater swimming. however it does also mean that the birds become waterlogged and the cormorant has to "dry" its plumage in its heraldic stance.


Differences between shag and cormorant - How to Tell a Cormorant from a Shag
As I am a novice I find that it can be difficult sometimes to ascertain whether the bird I am looking at actually a shag or a cormorant. I have recently gleaned the following info from persons with more experience than myself.

Patch at Base of Bill
Cormorants have a yellowish patch at the base of the bill which is greyish. Shags have a washed out dull yellowish bill. Cormorants have heavier bills

Head Shape
Another pointer is the head shape although this can vary of course in what the bird is doing. Shags have a peaked crown compared to flat one of Cormorant.

Shags produce distinctive shaggy crests on their heads during breeding season, while cormorants do not.

Shags generally are smaller than cormorants, with narrower beaks and leaner bodies

The shags normal flight is low, close to sea, while the Cormorant often flies high.

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