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Great Cormorant - BirdForum Opus

Complete breeding plumage and color, subspecies P. c. sinensis
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, India, January-2017

Alternative Name: White-breasted Cormorant [1], Black Cormorant

Phalacrocorax carbo


80–100 cm (31½-39½ in)

  • Blackish plumage
  • White throat
  • Yellow gape
  • White thigh patch in breeding plumage

Juvenile whitish underparts

Similar Species

Forehead less steep than European Shag. Juvenile/immature Shags both have a white throat. Cormorant always have dark feet and young Shags have paler feet (webs between the toes).

Subspecies P. c. novoehollandiae
Photo © by Nora
Melton, Melbourne, Australia, May 2007


Almost worldwide; absent from Antarctica, South America and much of North America. In North America found north of Nova Scotia in breeding season.

Winters south to Florida along the coast. Also winters in small numbers in Lake Ontario.


Some authorities consider the White-breasted Cormorant of Africa to be a separate species Phalacrocorax lucidus (Lepage, 2007)[2].


There are 6 subspecies[1]:

  • P. c. carbo:
  • P. c. novaehollandiae:
  • P. c. sinensis:
Nominate subspecies, breeding plumage
Photo © by Joe52
Bournemouth, UK, January 2014
  • P. c. hanedae:
  • P. c. maroccanus:
  • P. c. lucidus:


Open water and rocky coastline. Breeds on sea cliffs and on inland trees. .


Nominate subspecies, juvenile
Photo © by Macswede
Skåne, Sweden, April 2013

Often seen perched on rocks, bouys and posts with their wings outspread. Swims low in the water with head raised


Their diet consists mostly of fish; crustaceans and amphibians are also eaten.


Flies higher over the water than Shags; flocks forming long lines or V-shapes.



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  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Lepage D. (2020) Avibase. Retrieved 21 September 2020
  3. Birdwatchers Pocket Guide ISBN 1-85732-804-3
  4. Hatch, J. J., K. M. Brown, G. G. Hogan, R. D. Morris, J. Orta, E. F. J. Garcia, F. Jutglar, G. M. Kirwan, and P. F. D. Boesman (2020). Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.grecor.01
  5. Bird Forum Member Observations

Recommended Citation

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