Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cormorant, a cosmopolitan genus (Phalacrocorax) of the Pelican family with thirty-five species frequenting coasts and islands. The face and throat are naked; the bill is long, and the upper mandible much curved at the point, while the lower supports a dilatable membrane which forms a gular pouch. The legs are short, strong, and abdominal, with three toes in front and one behind, all united; the claw of the middle toe is pectinated and probably used to dress the plumage and to free the bird from insect pests. The wings are of moderate length, and the tail-feathers stiff and rigid. Many of the species develop/ crests or wattles in the breeding season. These birds feed exclusively on fish, of which they devour enormous quantities. Two species are British: the Great, Black, or Common Cormorant (P. carbo), and the Shag, Scart, or Green Cormorant (P. graculus). The first species has the range of the genus. Its general plumage is black, with a velvety bluish tinge on the under surface, and there is a white patch on the thigh; the feathers on the head of the adult are elongated to form a crest; gular pouch yellow, margined with white. This bird was formerly used in England, as it still is in China, for fishing. The Shag is a somewhat smaller bird, and has dark-green plumage, with metallic reflections on the under surface. It is crested like its congener. It is more essentially a marine bird than the Common Cormorant, which often nests inland. In the seventeenth century there was a colony of P. carbo at Reedham in Norfolk, and down to very much later some built in the trees round the decoy at Fritton, Suffolk.