Thirty-seven species occur worldwide; 4 in Canada, 3 restricted to marine environments. The great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo, 2.4-5.3 kg) breeds along the Gulf of St Lawrence and the East Coast. Brandt's cormorant (P. penicillatusabout 2.1 kg) inhabits brackish to nearshore waters around Vancouver Island. The pelagic cormorant (P. pelagicus, 1.6-2.7 kg), Canada's smallest, most marine species, nests on cliffs along the BC coast, often wintering on the open ocean. The double-crested cormorant (P. auritus 1.7-3.5 kg) occurs across much of southern Canada, inhabiting freshwater lakes, brackish waters and marine islands.
Nests are on the ground or in trees, on islands or cliffs. Cormorants are susceptible to disturbance when nesting.
Cormorants are fish eaters. They forage gregariously and capture prey by diving from the surface. Frequently, swimming birds form a semicircle, driving their prey. Capable of diving up to 37 m, cormorants perhaps use wings as well as feet for underwater propulsion. Cormorants have been persecuted for depletion of economic fish stocks, although they subsist mainly on coarse fish.
Double-crested cormorant populations, greatly affected by habitat loss caused in part by the drought of the 1930s and by pesticides, have increased significantly in recent years, and their populations are now controlled in parts of their range in eastern Canada.
Author PHILIP H.R. STEPNEY
Links to Other Sites
All About Birds
Search this online bird identification guide for information on specific bird species found in North America. Click on the dynamic map of eBird sightings for a magnified view. From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the US.
Canadian Biodiversity Website
A great information source for all budding biologists. Learn about biodiversity theory, natural history, and conservation issues. From McGill’s Redpath Museum.
Important Bird Areas in Canada
An extensive database of key facts and maps about bird populations, habitat types, and land use activities associated with Important Bird Areas across Canada. To search the database, click on "IBA database." Then, click on the "Show IBA List" button to see a list of these locations.