• Name: Cormorant | Phalacrocorax carbo
  • Size: 130-160cm wingspan
  • Life span: 11 years  
  • Diet: Cormorants mainly eat fish, but also consume crustaceans, amphibians and insects when fishing in fresh water.
  • Reproduction: Cormorants are monogamous, with pairs sometimes reuniting in subsequent years; females can lay 2-6 eggs.  They do not currently breed in Scilly and are relatively uncommon.
  • When to see: Throughout the year
  • Where to see: Cormorants can often be seen inland on the Mainland around lakes and reservoirs; here in Scilly you will find them around the coast on rocky outcrops on both our inhabited and uninhabited Islands, i.e. Pelistry, St Mary's | Annet | Droppy  Nose Point, Bryher in Scilly. 
  • Conservation status: ICUN Redlist | Least Concern (Global).  Birds of Conservation Concern 4 | Green (UK)
  • Population Trend: Stable (but have previously been near extinction in Europe)
  • Threats:  Human activity - in some countries, expanding conflicts with fish farms and fisheries are leading to new persecution.
  • Fun Fact: Cormorants have been seen swallowing small pebbles for extra weight in order to dive more easily, which they regurgitate after feeding.

Description:  Cormorants are large, apparently black birds often seen in their characteristic pose with wings outstretched to dry whilst perched on a rock; in reality their feathers have a blue/violet sheen to match their blue eyes.  During the breeding season white leg patches may also be visible.  

Cormorants are efficient birds, with a dagger-like bill, ideal for fishing.  They do not have waterproof feathers, waterproof feathers are no good for diving; so they have feathers that are easily waterlogged to help them sink and dive faster.  It is for this reason that you will often see them in their characteristic pose, drying out.

The UK holds internationally important wintering numbers of Cormorant; they do not breed in Scilly and are relatively uncommon. They can often be confused with the smaller, Shag which is here in larger numbers.

Want to know more?  Check out our latest Seabird Monitoring & Research Technical Report for the most up to date information about how this charismatic species is fairing in Scilly.


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With thanks to Joe Pender for the Cormorant image