CORMORANTS AND ANHINGAS – Phalacrocoracidae

CORMORANTS AND ANHINGAS

CORMORANTS AND ANHINGAS FACTS

The thirty-six species of cormorants are sleek, long-necked, dark waterbirds. They are good at flying and swimming, but they are clumsy when walking. Their length is between 19 and 40 inches (48 and 102 centimeters) from their bills to the end of their tails. Some weigh just 1.5 pounds (0.7 kilograms) and others weigh up to five times as much: 7.7 pounds (3.5 kilograms). Their long, thin, hooked bills have a saw-tooth edge. The Galápagos cormorant is unusual because it has stubby wings and cannot fly.

The four species of anhingas (pronounced an-HING-guz) are similar to the cormorants, but they have even longer necks. In some parts of the world, they are called darters. Their bills are sharply pointed (not hooked) and bright yellow. Their length from their bills to the end of the tails is between 34 and 36 inches (86 and 92 centimeters). They do not have oil glands for waterproofing their feathers.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Cormorants are spread widely across the worlds’ continents, except for desert areas and the very coldest regions. The birds that nest in the coldest regions migrate to warmer places in winter. Anhingas live in the warm, tropical and subtropical areas of North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

CORMORANTS AND ANHINGAS HABITAT

Cormorants and anhingas live in freshwater wetlands, swamps, lakes, rivers, and estuaries (wet areas near the ocean where freshwater and saltwater mix). Ahingas that live near the ocean stay close to shore, cormorants fly out over the coastal waters.

CORMORANTS AND ANHINGAS DIET

Besides fish, these birds also eat other water animals such as frogs and crayfish. Cormorants snatch their prey with their bills, and anhingas usually spear their food. After swimming, the birds sit on perches and spread their wings in the sunshine.

BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION

Usually cormorants and anhingas breed in colonies. They build rather messy nests on tree limbs or on cliff ledges. Both parents sit on the eggs and care for the young. When they are not breeding, they often flock together for feeding and for roosting at night.

CORMORANTS, ANHINGAS AND PEOPLE

Big flocks of cormorants are considered pests by some people because the birds can be messy and they eat fish. In South America, farmers gather the cormorants’ droppings for fertilizer. In Japan and China, some people use cormorants to help them fish. Bird watchers sometimes travel long distances to see rare cormorants and anhingas.

CONSERVATION STATUS

One species of anhinga and fourteen species of cormorants are at risk. The Pallas’s cormorant has recently become Extinct (died out). Of the fourteen cormorant species, two are listed as Endangered.