Cormorants of South America

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.

Genus Phalacrocorax

Cormorant, Flightless  Phalacrocorax harrisi  Found: Galapagos Islands
The Flightless Cormorant is the only nonflying cormorant. It has blackish upperparts; brown underparts; turquoise eyes.
Image by:  1) Putneymark  2) James Preston  3) Sara Yeomans  4) NOAA Photo Library

Cormorant, Guanay Phalacrocorax bougainvillii Found: West coast of South America
The Guanay Cormorant has black upperparts, head; white underparts; gray bill with some red at base; roseate feet.
Image by: 1) Jens Tobiska  2) Gunnar Engblom   3)   4) Charlie Westerinen - the Lima Peru fish market
2) With Peruvian Booby

Cormorant, Neotropic Phalacrocorax brasilianus   Found: south USA to southern South America
The Neotropic Cormorant has mainly black plumage; yellow-brown throat porch; white tufts on side of head when breeding. Juveniles have brownish plumage.
Image by: 1) Greg M - Texas  2) Daniele Columbo - Brazil   3) Dick Daniels - Lima, Peru  4) Dick Daniels - Panama
  5, 6) J N Stuart - New Mexico  7) Hans Hillewaert - Costa Rica   8) Dario Sanches  - Brazil
1) Juvenile  2) nonbreeding adult  4, 5, 6) breeding adult

Cormorant, Red-legged  Phalacrocorax gaimardi  Found: South America
The Red-legged Cormorant has mainly gray plumage; white spots on wings; white patch on neck; black tail; green eyes; yellow bill; red legs.
Image by: 1) Ronald Woan - Chile  2) Nanosmile - Argentina

Shag, Imperial also Imperial Comorant  Phalacrocorax atriceps  Found: South America, Antarctic region
The Imperial Shag has black upperparts; white underparts; blue eyes. The following ia considererd by some to be subspecies of the Imperial Shag: White-bellied Shag. They are all Blue-eyed Shags.
Image by:  1) Richard Crook   2) Calyponte Beagle Channel, southern Argentina    3, 4, 5) Charlie Westerinen - Ushuaia, Argentina in the Beagle Channel

Shag, Rock also Magellan Cormorant  Phalacrocorax Magellanicus  Found: South America  (Patagonia, Argentina)
The Rock Shag has black upperparts, head, neck; white underparts; red facial skin; pinkish legs.
Image by: 1) Arthur Chapman near Ushuaia, Argentina  2) Andrew Cheal - Falkland Islands  3) Ealdgyth 

Shag, White-bellied  also   King Cormorant  Phalacrocorax albiventer  Found: Falkland Islands, southern Argentina and Chile
The White-bellied Shag is considered by some to be a subspecies of the Imperial Shag, Because of confusion regarding these shags, identification is often based on location and may not be accurate.
Note: The Rough-faced Shag of New Zealand is also called the King Shag which can lead to confusion with the White-bellied Shag (King Cormorant).
Image by: 1) Nestor Galina - Patagonia  2) Liam Quinn 


Order disputed   Family Anhingidae - 1 genus

Anhingas and cormorants are extremely similar as regards their body and leg skeletons. But unlike the cormorants, anhingas typically inhabit fresh water lakes, rivers, marshes, swamps, and are less often found near salt water. They have completely webbed feet, and their legs are short and set far back on the body. The males have black and dark brown plumage, a short erectile crest on the nape and a larger bill than the female. The females have a much paler plumage, and are a bit larger overall.

Genus Anhinga

Anhinga Anhinga anhinga   Found: southeast United States to Panama, South America
The Anhinga has glossy black upperparts with white streaking on the upper wings; gray elongated feathers on head, neck.
Similar to: Double-crested Cormorant. Anhinga has a narrower neck than the Double-crested Cormants. The Anhinga's bill is thin and pointed while the Double-crested Cormorant's is thicker and hooked at the end.
Image by: 1, 2, 3) Dick Daniels - Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge  4, 5) Dick - Jacksonville, Florida   6) Dick - Huntington Beach, South Carolina  7) Dick - Sunset Beach, North Carolina  8) Cristiano Crolle - Esteros del Iberà, Argentina

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