Cormorants (lat. Phalacrocoracidae) are a family of birds of the order Pelicaniformes, consisting of 3 genera and 38 species. In recent years, there have been significant changes in the classification of this family - with the exception of three species (Galapagos cormorant (Nannopterum harrisi), blue-eyed cormorant (Leucocarbo atriceps) and Leucocarbo verrucosus), all others have been included in the single genus Phalacrocorax, or cormorants.
Widespread all over the world, with great biological diversity in tropical and temperate climates. They live on the sea coasts of continents and islands, as well as along the banks of rivers, lakes, as well as in wetlands.
Incubation period lasts 24-31 days, eggs are laid alternately for several days, so the chicks hatch and differ greatly in size. Only the chicks that have appeared are helpless, they have no plumage. The pre-plumage period varies greatly and lasts 35-80 days. Sometimes the parents continue feeding the chicks even after plumage for two to four months. Adult plumage in different species appears at different intervals from one to four years. Sexual maturity occurs in two to four years, depending on the species.
These are medium to fairly large birds in the size of a duck or goose. Body length 50-100 cm, wingspan 80-160 cm. The plumage of most species is black with a metallic sheen, some species have white spots on the head and belly. During incubation and hatching of chicks, the bare skin on the head, throat sac, eye rings and beak turn red, yellow, green or brown. As a rule, sexual dimorphism (visible differences in females and males) appears only in size (males are larger). In juveniles, the plumage is light brown, and the lower part is lighter than the upper one. A thin cylindrical beak is bent at the end in the form of a hook; nostrils are absent. At the base of the beak there is a patch of bare skin, according to the shape of which closely related species are distinguished. Feet are webbed, located far behind.
Long wings, neck and tail make their silhouette cruciform in flight. The head of a seated, swimming or flying bird is usually slightly raised. On land they sit vertically, with their neck stretched out, on the water - deeply, with their tail lowered into the water and their beak raised. The flight is fast, straightforward. Take off from the water with a running start.
Nest colonies, often large, usually together with other colonial birds and other animals: gulls, terns, penguins, boobies, seals and others. The nest is built from branches and grass on trees, less often on reed creases, flat islands or on coastal rocks. Clutch of 4-6 dull, bluish eggs with white streaks.
Dive well, while the transparent blinking membrane serves as a kind of underwater glasses. In the morning and in the evening, you can see how large flocks of cormorants fly in chains from an overnight stay to hunting grounds and back. Voice - dull croak or groan.
Feed on mainly fish (capelin, anchovy, herring, sardine), but they can eat shellfish, crustaceans and cephalopods. The inhabitants of the islands feed on fish, frogs, aquatic insects, sea snakes and turtles.
Description and distribution
Lesser spotted cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos) - This is one of the smallest species of cormorants - its body length ranges from 55 to 65 cm. Vast breeding territories of this species extend from Eastern Indonesia south to New Zealand and captures New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Australia. The back and wings of the small dark cormorant are dark in color, the underside, including the neck and face, on the contrary, is white.
Nesting and breeding
In choosing a habitat lesser spotted cormorants rather picky, however, they prefer frequently flooded fresh water bodies.They nest on trees and bushes in small colonies of their own species or together with other near-water birds. The nest of the lesser variegated cormorant is a rather loose platform of their branches, often with leaves. Cormorants especially love to build them on eucalyptus trees growing in the water. A full clutch consists of 4-5 pale blue eggs.
Feed on lesser spotted cormorants various mainly small fish and crustaceans (up to 80% of all prey), as well as insect larvae, sometimes tadpoles and frogs. Unlike other cormorants, they prefer to forage alone. Lesser variegated cormorants find most of their prey by diving in shallow water and chasing it under water; cormorants usually swallow food after they have dived.
It helps to get acquainted with what a crested cormorant looks like, photo. You can see them in our article as well. The bird is the smallest among all cormorants. Its body length does not exceed 80 cm, and its wingspan is one meter. In weight, birds never gain more than 2 kilograms, and even during the period of abundant and affordable nutrition.
Black cormorants have a corresponding shade of plumage with a greenish tint. During the mating season, as well as throughout the entire nesting period, the appearance of the bird changes - a small tuft of feathers appears on its head, which rise up.
Cormorants have a long beak. At first, it is pink in color, and towards the end it turns yellow. The skin around the eyes is emerald, but near the base of the beak it is yellow.
The abdomen is dark, but only in adults. Young males and females are lighter in color. In addition, chicks may have different shades on the main plumage, which is never observed in adult cormorants.
The globally crested cormorant lives wherever there is a seaside. Unlike other similar and related species, he will not be able to live near fresh water bodies. It is distributed along the entire Atlantic coast, right up to the Iberian Peninsula. It can also be found in southwestern Africa.
On the territory of the Russian Federation, cormorants are found on the Kola Peninsula, as well as in the north and east of the Black Sea. A critical habitat of the species is located near this reservoir on the Parus rock. In general, the bird can be found throughout the southern part of Russia.
The crested cormorant can also be seen in the Crimea. On some coasts, they normally relate to close proximity to humans, and there is an opportunity to see them personally, and quite close.
During the mating season, the crested cormorant becomes very beautiful, photos can confirm this. Bird nests are located in rocky crevices or sheltered ledges. They create them from twigs and dry algae. Their nests are quite massive, this is done so that the hatched babies feel comfortable.
The mating season begins in mid-spring, less often in March. One clutch can contain up to 5 pale blue eggs. The hatching process lasts almost a month, after which chicks are born without plumage and with dark skin. They are also blind, their eyes will be able to open only after 2 weeks.
Plumage in babies appears on the 20th day. First, it's fluff. Then it is gradually replaced by coarser feathers.
After a month and a half, the chicks are already fully fledged and ready to leave the nest. Despite the fact that the clutch of eggs can reach 5 pieces, there are fewer chicks, a maximum of three. They begin to fly out fully in 3-4 months.
During the nesting period, adults will not fly far from the colony. Therefore, in order to feed themselves, they will need fish near the shore. This factor negatively affects the preservation of the species.
The crested cormorant is not a solitary bird. He usually settles in colonies. The ideal habitat is the rocky coastline.But cormorants do not refuse to create colonies on small islands.
The birds overwinter in the sea, in the immediate vicinity of the nests. Usually cormorants do not fly inland, but sometimes they do. On land, they simply cannot feed themselves, so there is no point in moving far from the sea.
If the bird finds suitable living conditions, then it will never start looking for another option. This means that cormorants are sedentary. Their migration and wandering can only be due to the fact that the reservoir is too polluted.
The crested cormorant is an endangered species in many countries. This is due not only to the fact that previously the bird was caught in large quantities. The fact is that habitats change according to climatic and temperature regimes. Some do not have enough food, again due to human activities. Therefore, it is necessary to make every effort to preserve this look.