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Celebrating the achievements of landcarers

04/12/2017

The Tamar Island Wetland Cares Volunteer Group has been recognised in the 2017 Landcare Tasmania Awards.More

Horsetail Falls walk now open

15/11/2017

Visitors to the West Coast are in for some spectacular views on the new Horsetail Falls walk near Queenstown.More

Bruny Island Neck lookout re-opens

10/11/2017

The walkways and lookout at the Bruny Island Neck will re-open to the public today, following the completion of a new, larger car park that will provide improved access to the popular lookout.More

Great cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo

The Great Cormorant is a widespread member of the cormorant family of seabirds - the Phalacrocoracidae. 

The species is often used in the well-known traditional practice of "cormorant fishing" in parts of China. Fishermen tie line around the throats of trained birds, tight enough to prevent them swallowing larger fish, and deploy them from small boats. The cormorants catch fish without being able to swallow the larger ones, and the fishermen remove the fish from the bird's throat.

Description

The Great Cormorant is the largest of Australia's cormorants, reaching nearly 1m in length and with a wingspan from 121 to 160cm.

It is almost entirely black in plumage, apart from a white-yellow throat-patch. A small white patch on each thigh is present only in the breeding season. It has a hooked, grey bill and black legs and feet.

Young birds resemble the adults but are more dusky-brown and have a grey-white breast.

The Great Cormorant can be distinguished from the similar Little Black Cormorant, P. sulcirostris, which is considerably smaller, completely black and has a thinner bill.

Habitat

Prefers extensive areas of permanent freshwater, such as rivers, lakes but is often observed on coastal bays and estuaries It is often seen perching on piers and dead trees.

Diet

The Great Cormorant feeds mainly on fish, but will also take crustaceans, aquatic insects and frogs. Although it can dive to considerable depths, it often captures its food in shallow underwater dives, lasting up to one minute. Underwater, it pursues prey using its feet but not its wings.

The Great Cormorant is one of the few birds which can move its eyes, which presumably aids hunting.

Breeding

The Great Cormorant breeds mainly in colonies, nesting in dead trees and trees overhanging water, and occasionally on the ground on islands, or on cliffs.

Breeding can occur at any time depending on food supply, Although commonly nest late in summer.
Both sexes build the nest, which is a large structure of sticks. Both parents also incubate the eggs and care for the young. 3-4 blue-green chalky eggs are laid.

Call

A rapidly repeated glutteral coughing and a rising, querulous croaking.
Distribution Map courtesy Natural Values Atlas, data from theLIST
© 2010 State of Tasmania

Distribution

Great Cormorants are a very common and widespread species, occurring through North America, Europe, Africa, China, India, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Australia. The subspecies found in Australasian waters, P. carbo novaehollandiae, has a crest and occurs throughout most of Australia but is more numerous in the south-east and south-west.

In Tasmania, the species is widespread. It can regularly be seen at Bridgewater on the Derwent River and near Tamar Island and Cataract Gorge on the Tamar River.