What Is a Cormorant Related to? Discover Its Closest Animal Relatives

Cormorants are fascinating creatures that are often seen perched on dock pilings, fishing in rivers, and soaring overhead. But have you ever wondered what they’re related to? Well, despite their appearance, cormorants actually have some surprising relatives. These aquatic birds actually belong to the family Phalacrocoracidae, which is in the same order as pelicans, gannets, and boobies.

While cormorants may seem like distant cousins to these other seabirds, they actually share some striking similarities. For example, cormorants and pelicans both have a hook-like projection on their beaks that helps them scoop up fish. Additionally, cormorants and gannets both dive from great heights into the water to catch their prey. Despite these similarities, however, cormorants are an incredibly unique and fascinating group of birds in their own right.

So the next time you spot a cormorant while out on a boat or walking along the shore, take a moment to appreciate their intriguing family tree. Whether they’re diving deep into the water to catch their fish or simply lounging on a piling, these birds are definitely a sight to behold. And by understanding what cormorants are related to, we can gain a deeper appreciation for all species that call the ocean home.

Classification of Cormorants

Cormorants are a diverse family of aquatic birds that are part of the Phalacrocoracidae family. This family includes more than 40 species of cormorants that are found throughout the world in both fresh and saltwater habitats. Cormorants are known for their unique ability to dive deep underwater to catch prey. Here are the different classifications of cormorants:

  • Genus: There are six different genera of cormorants, which include:
    • Microcarbo
    • Phalacrocorax
    • Leucocarbo
    • Nannopterum
    • Stictocarbo
    • Compsohalieus
  • Phylogeny: Cormorants are related to several other families of aquatic birds, including frigatebirds, boobies, tropicbirds, gannets, and pelicans.

One of the most interesting things about cormorants is the way they have evolved to inhabit different marine environments. Some species nest on rocky cliffs while others build nests on the ground or in trees. Cormorants also have different feeding strategies, with some species feeding exclusively on fish while others will also eat crustaceans and mollusks.

Below is a table showing the different genera of cormorants and the species included in each:

Genus Species
Microcarbo 10 species
Phalacrocorax 26 species
Leucocarbo 5 species
Nannopterum 1 species
Stictocarbo 1 species
Compsohalieus 1 species

As you can see, cormorants are a diverse family of birds with a fascinating evolution and adaptation to different environments. Understanding their classification and phylogeny helps shed light on the unique characteristics of each species and their place in the wider ecosystem.

Habitats of Cormorants

Cormorants are aquatic birds that can be found in various habitats around the world. They are commonly found near water bodies such as oceans, lakes, rivers, and wetlands. These birds can adapt to different environments and their habitats depend on their species.

Some of the habitats where cormorants are commonly found are:

  • Coastal Areas – Many species of cormorants are coastal birds and can be found on rocky cliffs or beaches. They live and nest in colonies and feed on fish that they catch in the ocean.
  • Inland Waters – Cormorants can also be found in freshwater habitats such as lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. They typically feed on fish and eels and nest in trees or on the ground.
  • Wetlands – Some species of cormorants are found in wetland habitats such as swamps and marshes. They nest in trees or on the ground and feed on amphibians, fish, and insects.

Cormorants are known for their exceptional diving abilities, which allow them to catch fish beneath the water’s surface. They also have waterproof feathers, which aid them in swimming and diving in search of their prey.

The table below provides some examples of cormorant species and their preferred habitats:

Cormorant Species Habitat
Double-crested Cormorant Coastal Areas and Inland Waters
Great Cormorant Coastal Areas, Inland Waters, and Wetlands
Neotropic Cormorant Inland Waters and Wetlands

Cormorants are fascinating birds that have adapted to various habitats throughout the world. Studying their habitats can provide insight into their behavior, lifestyle, and survival strategies.

Physical Features of Cormorants

As one of the most distinct bird species around the world, cormorants are easily recognizable thanks to their unique features. These highly adapted birds are well adapted to their aquatic lifestyle, and display an array of physiological and anatomical adaptations for their diving abilities, fishing, and feeding habits.

Size and Weight

  • Cormorants come in different sizes, ranging from 18 to 40 inches in length.
  • The larger species can weigh up to 11 lbs, while the smaller species weigh around 2 lbs.
  • Their wingspans can reach up to 5 feet, which helps them glide over the water surface and achieve great diving depths.

Feathers and Beak

Cormorants have unique feather morphology that makes them well-suited for their diving lifestyle. Their plumage is dense and waterproof, which allows them to remain buoyant and swim with ease. Additionally, they have a layer of oil in their feathers that helps keep them dry.

Their hooked beaks are another characteristic feature that sets them apart from other bird species. Cormorants have long and sharp beaks that they use to catch and hold onto their prey.

Diving Adaptations

Cormorants possess an array of physiological adaptations that aid them in their diving abilities. They are efficient swimmers with strong legs and webbed feet that provide powerful propulsion while swimming underwater. To better cope with the high water pressure that comes with deep dives, they have specialized air sacs that help them control their buoyancy and avoid decompression sickness.


Cormorants are largely fish-eating birds and have a diet that consists of small to medium-sized fish. Their long beaks and powerful jaws are perfectly designed for catching and holding onto fast-moving prey underwater.

Some examples of fish species in the cormorants diet include:

Behavior & Diet of Cormorants

Cormorants are a family of aquatic birds that are found all around the world. They are known for their excellent diving abilities and are commonly seen plunging into the water to feed on a variety of aquatic life. In this article, we will delve into the behavior and diet of these fascinating birds.

Behavior of Cormorants

  • Cormorants are highly skilled swimmers and divers, capable of diving up to 45 meters below the water’s surface.
  • They have webbed feet and their wings are not fully waterproof, which allows them to dive deeper for longer periods of time.
  • Cormorants are social birds, often seen in flocks, and are known to share fishing territory with other birds and even humans.

Diet of Cormorants

Cormorants are carnivorous birds that feed mainly on fish, but will also eat eels, squid, crustaceans, and occasionally small birds. Some species of cormorants have specialized diets:

  • The Galapagos cormorant feeds exclusively on deepwater eels, due to the lack of fish in their environment.
  • The double-crested cormorant feeds on a variety of fish, but also eats a large number of crayfish during the breeding season.
  • The Japanese cormorant is trained by fishermen to catch fish, with a cord tied around its neck to prevent it from swallowing the fish.

Cormorant Fishing Techniques

As mentioned earlier, cormorants are known to share fishing territory with humans, and in some parts of the world, they have even been trained to fish for humans. Cormorant fishing is an ancient technique that is still practiced in certain parts of Japan and China. Fishermen tie a cord around the cormorant’s neck to prevent it from swallowing the fish, and then release them into the water. The bird dives down and catches the fish in its beak, and the fishermen retrieve the bird and fish using the cord. This technique is still used today, although it is now mainly a tourist attraction.

Species Habitat Diet
Double-crested Cormorant North America Fish, crayfish, amphibians
Great Cormorant Eurasia, Africa, Australia Fish, eels, octopi, squid
Neotropic Cormorant South America, Mexico Small fish, crustaceans

Cormorants are wonderful birds with fascinating behavior and diets. Their impressive diving abilities and fishing techniques make them a unique and interesting part of the avian world.

Migration of Cormorants

Cormorants are migratory birds that travel long distances for food, breeding, and nesting grounds. Migration is an innate behavior that is genetically programmed, and it enables cormorants to escape the harsh winter conditions and scarcity of food in their breeding areas. Cormorants undertake long-distance migration, and the length of their journey depends on the location of their breeding and wintering habitats.

  • Cormorant Breeding and Wintering Locations
  • The breeding range of cormorants stretches from temperate regions to the equator, and they breed on islands, rocks, cliffs, and trees near water. In the northern hemisphere, breeding season starts around April, and the birds migrate to their wintering grounds in autumn. On the other hand, the breeding season in the southern hemisphere starts around September, and they migrate in April. Their wintering range is along the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and includes countries such as Japan, Australia, South Africa, and South America.

  • Cormorant Migration Routes
  • Cormorants follow well-established migration routes that are dictated by the location of their breeding and wintering areas. The Eastern population of double-crested cormorants breed in Canada and the United States and migrate along the Atlantic Flyway, a route that follows the eastern coast of the United States and Canada to their wintering sites in Florida, Mexico, and Central America. The Western population of double-crested cormorants breed in the western parts of the United States and Canada, and they migrate along the Pacific Flyway, a route that follows the west coast of the United States and Canada to their wintering sites in Mexico and Central America.

  • Flying and Navigation Strategies
  • Cormorants fly long distances at an altitude of 200 to 500 meters, and they can travel up to 240 kilometers in a day. They fly in V-formations and take turns leading the flock to conserve energy. Cormorants use different navigational strategies to guide them on their journey. They use the sun, stars, magnetic fields, and even the earth’s topography to orient themselves. They also have specialized cells in their eyes that enable them to see the polarization pattern of the sky, which keeps them on course when visibility is poor.

  • Migratory Challenges
  • Cormorants face several challenges during their long-distance migration, including predation, exhaustion, and bad weather. They also have to contend with human activities, such as habitat loss and pollution, which affect their breeding and wintering habitats. Hunting and persecution are also significant threats to cormorants, as they are considered pests by some fishermen who see them as competition for fish.

  • Conservation Measures
  • Conservation Measures Impact
    Restoration of Breeding Habitats Increased breeding success
    Protection of Wintering Sites Reduced hunting and habitat loss
    Regulation of Hunting and Persecution Reduced human impacts
    Reduction of Pollution Cleaner habitats and reduced risks to cormorant health

    Several conservation measures have been put in place to protect cormorants during their migration and breeding seasons. These measures include the restoration of breeding habitats, protection of wintering sites, regulation of hunting and persecution, and reduction of pollution. These measures have improved the chances of survival for cormorants and have enabled them to continue their long-distance migration patterns.

Cormorants vs. Seagulls

Cormorants and seagulls are both types of birds that are commonly found near bodies of water such as oceans, rivers, and lakes. While they may share some similarities, there are also several differences that set them apart.

  • Diet: Cormorants are carnivorous birds that primarily feed on fish, whereas seagulls are omnivorous and will eat a variety of foods including fish, crustaceans, and even garbage.
  • Size: Cormorants are generally larger and have a longer wingspan than seagulls.
  • Flying: While both birds are able to fly, cormorants are better swimmers and divers than seagulls. Cormorants have less buoyancy and are therefore able to dive deeper and swim faster.

In terms of behavior, cormorants are known to hunt in groups and will often work together to catch fish. Seagulls, on the other hand, are more independent and do not typically hunt in groups.

Despite their differences, both cormorants and seagulls play important roles in marine ecosystems. Cormorants help control fish populations, while seagulls help control insect populations by eating insects found near bodies of water.

Cormorants Seagulls
Diet Primarily fish Omnivorous, will eat fish and a variety of other foods
Size Generally larger, longer wingspan Smaller
Flying Better swimmers and divers, less buoyant Better flyers

Overall, cormorants and seagulls are both fascinating birds that play important roles in their ecosystems. Whether you’re watching them dive for fish or soar through the air, these birds are a beautiful and graceful addition to any marine landscape.

Cormorants in Mythology and Culture

Cormorants have been part of human culture and mythology for thousands of years. In many cultures, cormorants are known for their impressive diving abilities and their association with the water.

Here are some examples of how cormorants have been depicted in mythology and culture:

  • Ancient China: Cormorants were trained by fishermen to catch fish. The birds would dive into the water and bring back the fish to their masters.
  • European folklore: Cormorants were often associated with death and bad luck. It was believed that if a cormorant was seen flying over a ship, it was a sign that someone on board would die.
  • Māori culture: In Māori culture, cormorants were thought to bring good luck. The birds were often depicted in carvings and other artwork.

In addition to their cultural significance, cormorants have also been the subject of scientific research. Scientists have studied cormorants to better understand their diving abilities and adaptations to life underwater.

Here is a table showing some interesting facts about cormorants:

Species Name Habitat Diet Wingspan
Great Cormorant Coastal and inland waters Fish, crabs, and other aquatic creatures 5 – 6 feet
Double-crested Cormorant Lakes, rivers, and coastal areas Fish, eels, and other aquatic animals 3 – 4 feet

Whether in mythology or science, cormorants continue to captivate people’s imaginations. From their incredible diving abilities to their unique adaptations, these birds are a testament to the wonder and beauty of the natural world.

What is a Cormorant Related To: FAQs

1. What is a cormorant?

A cormorant is a bird species that belongs to the family Phalacrocoracidae. These birds are known for their diving capabilities and can spend a long time underwater.

2. What is the difference between a cormorant and a pelican?

While both birds are aquatic, pelicans have a distinctive pouch under their bill while cormorants do not. Cormorants also have a straight bill, while pelicans have a hooked bill.

3. Is a cormorant a duck?

No, a cormorant is not a duck. They may look similar to ducks due to their aquatic nature, but they are a separate bird species.

4. What do cormorants eat?

Cormorants are primarily fish eaters, although they will occasionally eat crustaceans and other small aquatic animals.

5. Are cormorants commonly found in North America?

Yes, cormorants are found throughout North America, although some species are more prevalent in certain regions.

6. Do cormorants migrate?

Yes, many species of cormorants are migratory and will travel south to warmer climates during the winter months.

7. Are cormorants endangered?

While some species of cormorants are threatened or endangered, others are considered to be of least concern by conservation organizations.

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We hope these FAQs helped you learn more about what a cormorant is related to and the unique characteristics of this aquatic bird species. Thanks for taking the time to read this article and please come back soon for more interesting nature facts!