Bird Photo Challenge #16: Little Black Cormorant

A common and widespread seabird, the Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) is an adept diver and powerful flyer we often see in our sailing trips. This member of the cormorant family is the focus of our #16 Bird Photography Challenge.

What does it look like?

A couple perching together

A couple perching together

The Little Black Cormorant is a small, slim, totally black cormorant. From a distance it might look drab, but up close, the plumage on his back has a glorious sheen and shows a distinct and quite beautiful scaly pattern, while the tail is smooth, glossy black and rounded.  A special reward of seeing this bird at close quarters or through a big lens is its striking blue-green eyes.  It has a long slender and hooked grey bill. His legs and feet are black.  The Little Black Cormorant is also known as “the little black shag”. It is 60-65 cms long and has a 95 to 105 cms wingspan.

How does it behave?

Drying the wings and preening

Drying the wings and preening

The Little Black Cormorant congregates in large flocks and flies in V-shaped formation. It feeds mainly on fish, but also on crustaceans and aquatic insects.  It catches prey underwater by diving and swimming, using its large fully webbed feet for propulsion.  Looking like a little black torpedo through the water, it can stay underwater for up to 30 seconds.  As its feathers are not waterproof, it is regularly seen perched with its wings outstretched to dry after fishing. The Little Black Cormorant builds large stick nests in the fork of a tree or on the ground. Both sexes share nest building, incubation and feeding of the young.

Did you know?

The Little Black Cormorant has special membranes that cover and protect its eyes when it dives, since its eyes are wide open as it pursues its prey from behind underwater.

Where is it found?

The Little Black Cormorant is found throughout Australia and Australasia in freshwater wetlands and sometimes on sheltered coastal waters, such as the Gippsland Lakes, where these photos were taken. We were on board Take It Easy, swinging on a mooring, which added to the photography challenge! The photos were taken with a Canon 60D and Canon 100-400mm lens, hand-held. Click on any image to display in full screen.

10 thoughts on “Bird Photo Challenge #16: Little Black Cormorant

  1. Wonderful shots, Chris, of an amazing bird. These cormorants have somewhat different colors than the Double-crested Cormorants that I occasionally see, but otherwise look and act the same. I too am especially taken by those amazing blue eyes. Wow!

  2. I love how they climb up into the top branches to spread their wings so they dry. Not having oil in their wings makes drying a necessity, but it looks like so much work with their wings spread out and flapping occasionally to dry! Great shots.

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