cormorant (kôrˈmərənt) [key], common name for large aquatic birds, related to the gannet and the pelican, and found chiefly in temperate and tropical regions, usually on the sea but also on inland waters. Cormorants are 2 to 3 ft (61–92 cm) long, with thick, generally dark plumage and green eyes. The feet are webbed, and the bill is long with the upper mandible terminally hooked. Expert swimmers, cormorants pursue fish underwater. In Asia they are used by fishermen who collar the leashed birds to prevent them from swallowing the catch. The double-crested cormorant of the Atlantic coast, Brandt's cormorant of the Pacific coast, and the red-faced cormorant, Phalacrocorax urile, are common forms. The glossy black European cormorant is widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere. A South American cormorant is a source of guano. The great cormorant nests high in trees or, as in other species, on steep, rocky sea cliffs. Two to six eggs per clutch are laid by the female. The young are born blind, and the parents feed the nestlings with half-digested food which is dropped into the nests. Later, the young birds poke their heads into the gullet of the adults to feed. Cormorants are long-lived; a banded one was observed after 18 years. Cormorants are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Pelecaniformes, family Phalacrocoracidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.