Cormorants of Europe

Order Suliformes     Family Phalacrocoracidae

The current trend is to have cormorants and shags in one family, Phalacrocoracidae, and to have the ahningas and darters in another, Phalacrocoracidae. However, these species are very similar so it would not be surprising to have them combined into one family again. A major characteristic that unites them is the lack of an oil gland for waterproofing their wings. Thus cormorants and anhingas are often seen with their wings spread out to dry their feathers.

Cormorants and shags are medium-to-large seabirds. Whether a species is call a cormorant or shag is a matter of local naming preference. They are distributed around the world, except for the central Pacific islands. They range in size from 45-100 cm. The majority have mainly dark plumage, but some species are black and white. Many species have areas of colored skin on the face which can be bright blue, orange, red or yellow. The bill is long, thin, and sharply hooked. Their feet have webbing between all four toes, as in their relatives. They are coastal rather than oceanic birds. All are fish-eaters, dining on small eels, fish, and even water snakes. They dive from the surface. Under water they propel themselves with their feet. [abstracted from Wikipedia]


Cormorant, Pygmy  Microcarbo pygmaeus  Found: Europe, Asia
Image by: 1) Sergey Yeliseev - Bulgaria  2) Franceso Veronesi - Hungary  3) Martin Mecnarowski - Hungary



Genus Phalacrocorax

Cormorant, Great Phalacrocorax carbo   Found: North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand
The Great Cormorant is a large cormorant. It has black plumage (except for race White-beasted Cormorant); long tail; yellow throat patch; white near bill. Breeding has white on head. White-breasted Cormorant (Phalacrocorax c. lucidus) is the only subspecies of Great Cormorant found in sub-Saharan Africa.
Similar to: European Shag. The Great Cormorant is larger than the European Shag and has a thicker bill.
Image by: 1, 3) Oystercatcher - Australia  2, 3, 4) Dick Daniels - New Zealand   5) Arend Vermazeren  6, 7) BS Thurner Hof    8) Andy Li   9) Dirk Roorda - Germany  10) Dick - Knysna Lagoon, Kenya  11) Dick - Plettenberg Bay, South Africa  12) Cristiano Crolle - Maggiore Lake, Italy
1) Juvenile  2, 3, 4, 5) nonbreeding  6, 7, 8, 9) breeding  10, 11) White-breasted Cormorant





Shag, European  also  Common Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis  Found: Europe, Asia, Africa
The European Shag is a medium sized cormorant. It has black plumage; yellow throat patch; long tail; long thin tail; greenish sheen to plumage when breeding..
Similar to: Great Cormorant. The Great Cormorant is larger than the European Shag and has a thicker bill.
Image by: 1) Julius Ruckert - Croatia  2, 5) Andreas Trepte  3) Martin Mecnarowski - Norway  4) MPF - Northumberland, UK 








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