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Phalacrocoracidae – Cormorants and Shags

Reed Cormorant in Uganda: Photo by Ian Davies

Welcome to our guides on Phalacrocoracidae! Found in various parts of the world, this family of birds, commonly known as cormorants and shags, is fascinating to observe. With approximately 40 species, they are primarily aquatic birds with a widespread presence near coastal regions and freshwater habitats. Cormorants are renowned for their remarkable diving abilities and sleek, streamlined bodies, making them efficient hunters of fish and other aquatic prey. These birds are often seen perched on rocks or drying their outstretched wings after a dive, presenting a captivating sight for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Overview of Phalacrocoracidae

Cormorants and shags, skilled in foot-propelled diving, capture their aquatic prey using their sharply hooked bills. Despite their poorly waterproofed plumage, they are ubiquitous along coastal regions and freshwater habitats worldwide, except for the most polar areas. While Northern Hemisphere cormorants are predominantly dark brown or black, the Southern Hemisphere boasts a variety of boldly patterned shags in grays, whites, and blacks. Some species exhibit vibrant red, yellow, or blue feet and facial skin, while their mesmerizing blue or blue-green eyes may struggle to focus underwater, possibly influencing their prey selection.