Great cormorant

   ›      ›   Great cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo.

The great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) belongs to the family Phalacrocoracidae. The great cormorant species is distributed in Indian Subcontinent, Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Australia.

Taxonomy of Great cormorant

  • Scientific Name: Phalacrocorax carbo
  • Common Name: Great cormorant
  • French: Grand Cormoran; German: Kormoran; Spanish: Cormor├ín grande;
  • Other names: Pelecanus carbo Linnaeus, 1758; black shag; large cormorant; black cormorant; great black cormorant;
  • Family: Phalacrocoracidae › Suliformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Phalacrocorax carbo bird was earlier placed under genus Pelecanus. The six recognized subspecies are: P. c. carbo (Linnaeus, 1758), P. c. sinensis (Staunton, 1796), P. c. hanedae Nagamichi Kuroda, 1925, P. c. maroccanus E. J. O. Hartert, 1906, P. c. lucidus (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) and P. c. novaehollandiae Stephens, 1826.

Indian birds - Great cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
Indian birds - Great cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo


The great cormorant is a large bird, measuring 80 to 100 cm in length and weighing 1,800 to 2,800 grams. The female cormorant is slightly smaller. The wingspan is 130 to 160 cm. These cormorant birds are black with a longish tail. Adults have white patches on the thighs and on the throat in the breeding season. They may have a yellow throat-patch.


The great cormorant birds are seen in both inland and coastal water bodies. They are found in estuaries, lagoons, creeks, tidal flats, marshes, swamps, fish ponds, lakes and streams.

Feeding habits

These cormorant birds mostly feed on fish and sometimes also feed crustaceans, molluscs and amphibians. They dive to catch the prey and surface to swallow it.


The great cormorant birds breed during April to June in temperate regions. They appear to breed year-round in tropics. The nest is constructed as a platform on trees. In some places they nest on the ground. The clutch has three to four eggs.


The subspecies P. c. carbo is distributed in North America, Southern Europe and Northern Africa. The subspecies P. c. sinensis is distributed in Europe, Asia, Indian Subcontinent and Africa. The subspecies P. c. hanedae Nagamichi is distributed in Japan. The subspecies P. c. maroccanus occurs in Northwest Africa. The subspecies P. c. lucidus occurs in Africa. The subspecies P. c. novaehollandiae occurs in Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.

Movement Patterns

The great cormorant species in temperate regions move southwards for wintering. The birds in the tropical and subtropical regions are mostly Sedentary.

Status and conservation

The global population of great cormorant birds is estimated to be between 1,400,000 to 2,900,000 individual birds. The overall population trend is increasing. These birds are considered least vulnerable. Hunting of these birds, persecution from the aquaculture industry and breeding habitat degradation are the threats in conservation of these birds.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these cormorant birds and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Phalacrocorax carbo
Species:P. carbo
Binomial name:Phalacrocorax carbo
Distribution:North America, Europe, Asia, Indian Subcontinent, Africa and Australia;
Feeding habits:fish, crustaceans and amphibians;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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