The Bird Book/Cormorants

The Bird Book by Chester A. Reed
Cormorants: Family Phalacrocoracidae


Cormorants have a more bulky body than do the Anhingas; their tail is shorter and the bill strongly hooked at the tip. Cormorants are found in nearly all quarters of the globe. They are very gregarious and most species are maritime. They feed upon fish which they catch by pursuing under water. Most of the Cormorants have green eyes.


119. CORMORANT. PTialacrocorax carbo.

Range. The Atlantic coast breeding from Maine to Greenland.

The common Cormorant or Shag is one of the largest of the race, having a length of 36 inches.

In breeding plumage, the black head and neck are so thickly covered with the slender white plumes as to almost wholly obscure the black. There is also a large white patch on the flanks. They nest in colonies on the rocky shores of New

Chalky greenish or bluish whitae

foundland and Labrador, placing their nests of sticks and seaweed in rows along the high ledges, where they sit, as one writer aptly expresses it, like so many black bottles. A few pairs also nest on some of the isolated rocky islets off the Maine coast. During the latter part of May and during June they lay generally four or five greenish white, chalky looking eggs. Size 2.50 x 1.40. Data. Black Horse Rock, Maine coast, June 6, 1893. Four eggs in a nest of seaweed and a few sticks; on a high ledge of rock. Collector, C. A. Reed.

Cormorant Double-crested Cormorant:

120. DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT. Phalacrocorax auritus auritus.

Range. The Atlantic coast and also in the interior, breeding from Nova Scotia and North Dakota northward.

This is a slightly smaller bird than carbo, and in the nesting season the white plumes of the latter are replaced by tufts of black and white feathers from above each eye. On the coast they nest the same as carbo and in company with them on rocky islands. In the interior they place their nests on the ground or occasionally in low trees on islands in the lakes. They breed in large colonies, making the nests of sticks and weeds and lay three or four eggs like those of the common Cormorant but averaging shorter. Size 2.30 x 1.40. Data. Stump Lake, North Dakota, May 31, 1897. Nest of dead weeds on an island. Six eggs. Collector, T. F. Eastgate.


Walter Raine




120a. FLORIDA CORMORANT. Phalacrocorax auritus ftoridanus.

This sub-species is a common breeding bird in the swamps and islands of the Gulf coast and north to South Carolina and southern Illinois. The nests are placed in the mangroves in some of the most impenetrable swamps and are composed of twigs and lined with leaves or moss. They lay three or four chalky bluish white eggs. Size 2.30x1.40. Data. Bird Is., Lake Kissimee, Florida, April 5, 1898. Three eggs. Nest made of weeds and grass, in a willow bush.

120b. WHITE-CRESTED CORMORANT. Phalacrocorax auritus cincinatus.

Range. Northwestern coast of North America, breeding in Alaska, and south to the northern boundary of the United States, breeding both in the interior and on the coast, in the former case generally on the ground or in low trees on swampy islands and in the latter, on the rocky cliffs of the coasts and islands. The nests are built in the same fashion as the other Cormorants, and the three to five eggs are similar. Size 2.45 x 1.40.

120c. FARALLON CORMORANT. Phalacrocorax auritus albociliatus.

Range. This sub-species breeds on the coasts and islands of California and southward.

In company with other species of Cormorants, these birds breed in large numbers on the Farallones, placing their nests well up on the higher ridges and rocks. They breed most abundantly during May. When nesting on the inland islands, they place their nests in low bushes. Their nests and eggs are similar to those of the other Cormorants. Size 2.40 x 1.50. Data. Farallones, California. Nest of weeds and seaweed on the rocks. Collector, W. O. Emerson.

121. MEXICAN CORMORANT. Phalacrocorax vigua mexicanus.

Range. Breeds abundantly from southern Texas, south through

north rarely to Kansas; har

Greenish white



been found breeding in limited number on some of the Bahamas. In the interior they nest in trees, chiefly those overhanging or growing in the water. On the coasts they nest on the rocky ledges, as do the other Cormorants. They nest in colonies building their abode of twigs and weeds, and during May laying three or four eggs, greenish white in color and chalky, as are all the Cormorants. Size 2.25 x 1.35.


120c 122



Phalacrocorax penicillatus.

Range. Pacific coast breeding along the whole coast of the United States.

This species is found more abundantly on the Farallones than is the Parallone Cormorant. Like the other Cormorants breeding on these islands, these cling closely to their nests, for fear of being robbed by the Gulls, that are ever on the watch to steal either eggs or young. Their nesting iiabits and eggs are identical with those of . the other species. Size 2.50 x 1.50. Data. Bird Island, California, May 24, 1885. A very bulky nest of seaweed on the rocks. Collector, A. M. Ingersoll.

123. PELAGIC CORMORANT. Phalacrocorax pel agicus pelagicus. Range. Coast of Alaska.

These are perhaps the most beautiful species of Cormorants, having brilliant violet green metallic reflections and, in the breeding plumage, crests on the forehead and nape, as well as large white flank patches. They breed in large colonies on the Aleutian Islands, placing their nests of sticks and sea mosses on the rocky ledges, often hundreds of feet above the sea level. Three or four eggs are laid during May and June. The young birds' when hatched are naked and black, and are repulsive looking objects, as are those of all the other Cormorants. The eggs are greenish white with the usual calcareous deposit. Size 2.30 x 1.40.

123a. VIOLET-GREEN CORMORANT. Phalacrocorax pelagicus robustus.

This sub-species is found on the Pacific coast from Washington to the Aleutian Islands. Their habits and nests and eggs are the same as those of the Pelagic Cormorant, nesting on the high cliffs of the pM^s^^-.r^-^a^ss^-.-agi rocky islands. The eggs are the same size as those of the preceding.

123b. BAIRD'S CORMORANT. agicus resplendens.

This variety breeds on the Pacific coast from Washington south to Mexico. They nest on the Parallones, but in smaller numbers than the other varieties found there. Both the birds and their eggs are smaller than the preceding. Size of eggs 2.20 x 1.40.

1 24. RED-FACED CORMORANT. Phalacrocorax urile.

Range. Southwest coast of Alaska, migrating to Japan in the winter.

This species differs from the Pelagic chiefly in having the forehead bare. They do not differ in their breeding habits from others of the family. That the Cormorants are expert fishermen may be seen from the fact that the Chinese tame and have them catch fish for them, placing a ring around their neck to prevent their swallowing the fish. Their nesting places are very filthy, being covered with excrement and remains of fish that are strewn around the nests. They breed in June laying three or

four eggs. Size 2.50 x 1.50. j93 b 124


Phalacrocorax pel