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Flora & Fauna - 6.2 Cormorant

• Name: Great Cormorant
• Irish name: Broigheall
• Latin Name: Phalacrocorax carbo
• Order: Pelecaniformes
• Family: Phalacrocoracidae
• Status:Not a species of concern
• Length: 70 to 102 cm (28–40 in)
• Wingspan: 121 to 160 cm (48–63 in)
• Weight: 2.6 to 3.7 kg (5.7-8.2 lbs)

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Overview A large and conspicuous waterbird, the cormorant has an almost primitive appearance with its long neck making it appear almost reptilian. It is often seen standing with its wings held out to dry. Regarded by some as black, sinister and greedy, cormorants are supreme fishers which can bring them into conflict with anglers and they have been persecuted in the past. The UK holds internationally important wintering numbers.
Where to see them:Possible to see on almost all coasts of the Ireland and UK.
Habitat: Nests on seacliffs,Rocky outcrops, feeds in coastal waters.
Diet: Predominantly bivalves esp cockles, mussels, tellins Macoma, earthworms when young
Additional:The Great Cormorant can dive to considerable depths, but often feeds in shallow water. It frequently brings prey to the surface. A wide variety of fish are taken: cormorants are often noticed eating eels, but this may reflect the considerable time taken to subdue an eel and position it for swallowing, rather than any dominance of eels in the diet. In British waters, dive times of 20–30 seconds are common, with a recovery time on the surface around a third of the dive time. The Great Cormorant is one of the few birds which can move its eyes, which assists in hunting.
When to see them:Not a difficult species to see. Either at sea or on inland lakes and rivers in County Claire and Co. Galway. Look for them roosting on piers or rocks.
What they eat:Small fish, crustaceans, and squid.
European Population Size (summer): 800 to 900 thousand pairs.
Identification Large, mainly all dark seabird, often stands with wings out stretched drying. Long body and neck, long strong hooked bill. Dark webbed feet. Swims low in the water with bill raised. Often seen inland, unlike the similar looking Shag, where it breeds in trees. Adult breeding bird is black with a green, bronze and blue gloss to its plumage, yellow and white bare flesh at the base of its lower mandible and a white thigh patch. Cormorant lacks crest, instead having a sloping forehead which gives it a wedge shaped profile. Adult in non-breeding plumage lacks white thigh patch. Juvenile bird has very pale, even white, underparts and dark brown upperparts. Sub-adults have a variable amount of white in the underparts. Behaviour The Great Cormorant breeds mainly on coasts, nesting on cliffs or in trees (which are eventually killed by the droppings), but also increasingly inland. 3-4 eggs are laid in a nest of seaweed or twigs.
Behaviour One characteristic display is their so-called 'piping display' Both members of a pair bow forwards with their bill pointing down to the ground and they utter prolonged chattering piping noises. This seems to have some function in defending the territory since, if another pair joins, in they will usually be driven away by short chases in which the birds continue piping.
Distribution A very widespread species in temperate regions of the world, occurring locally in the Northwest Atlantic of North America, more widely through Eurasia, and in parts of Southeast Asia, Africa, and Australia. They generally winter near their breeding grounds.

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