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Black-faced Cormorant, Phalacrocorax fuscescens

Unlike the other cormorants in Tasmania, the Black-faced Cormorant is exclusively coastal and marine.

The species is also called the Black-faced Shag. There is no clear distinction between cormorants and shags, and the names are often used interchangeably in different parts of an animals range.


The Black-faced Cormorant is a large (to 700mm) bird with black upperparts and white underparts and a distinctive black crown that reaches the eye. There is a black mark on each thigh. The bill is dark grey, the naked face is black and the eyes are blue-green. The legs and feet are black.

During the breeding season the plumage develops fine, white streaks on the neck which are lost after egg laying.

The similar Little Pied Cormorant is smaller and has a yellow bill.


Black-faced Cormorants occur exclusively in coastal and marine waters such as large bays, deep inlets, rocky headlands and offshore islands. They seldom visit beaches.


The Black-faced-Cormorant feeds largely on small coastal fish which they catch by diving from the surface. The birds sometimes forage in flocks. After fishing, they sit with wings outstretched to dry their non-waterproofed feathers.


The Black-faced Cormorant breeds throughout the year in large or small colonies on off-shore islands. The nest of seaweed, sticks and grasses is always on the ground, usually on bare rock. Two pale green eggs are laid.


The Black-faced Cormorant is mostly client when away from the nest.
Distribution Map courtesy Natural Values Atlas, data from theLIST
© 2010 State of Tasmania


The Black-faced Cormorant is endemic to coastal regions of southern Australia from eastern Victoria to Cape Leeuwin, Western Australia.

It is common around the coast of Tasmania and the islands of Bass Strait. It can often be seen perched on jetties, buoys and breakwaters.