Great Cormorant

So, when I was going through my London pictures looking for the street pigeons, I realized that I had misidentified the cormorant. I had initially thought I had gotten several pictures of the double-crested cormorant (as that was the one I’m most familiar with), but it turns out that I actually got several pictures of the great cormorant.

The great cormorant is the only ‘cormorant’ that is found in the United Kingdom (the common shag is also present), and is more of an ‘Old World’ Cormorant.

Great cormorants and gulls spotted in London, UK

These are large seabirds that have a basic black coloring with a white throat (during the breeding season), and yellow skin around the bill.

In terms of distribution–within the ‘New World’, they can be found along the eastern seaboard of North America and as far north as Greenland. They seem to be absent from South America.

The distribution map for the Great Cormorant in North America. Map (c) birds of the world

They have a more widespread distribution throughout the ‘Old World’, where they can be found along the coasts, but also inland on freshwater lakes and rivers.

Great Cormorant worldwide distribution. Map (c) wikimedia commons

In terms of where you can spot them–look for the large seabird sitting on rocks, jetties, the edge of piers, or other places where they can sun themselves and spread their wings to dry after a fishing expedition.

The diet of great cormorants is almost exclusively fish, but along the coasts they may also eat small crustaceans and marine worms. For the North American great cormorants, their fish diet may include: sculpins, rock gunnel, pollock, cunner, mummichog, Atlantic cod, and winter flounder.

For those found in the ‘Old World’, their diets are more variable due in part to both location and type of water (salt/marine versus fresh) they’re hunting on.

Great cormorants and coots seen in London, UK

A few other little facts about the great cormorant:

Great cormorants don’t breed until they’re 4-5 years old

They breed in colonies; within North America that is usually along the rocky cliffs of the far northeastern coasts going towards Greenland (and they try to pick locations that have zero human activity). Within the ‘Old World’, they may still nest along rocky cliffs, but also within trees near the freshwater rivers or lakes.

A photography goal is to get a picture of the great cormorant in their mating colors, and also a picture of one from mainland Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

References:,; for the great cormorant worldwide map: