Indian cormorant

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Indian cormorant
Non-breeding bird with blue iris
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Suliformes
Family: Phalacrocoracidae
Genus: Phalacrocorax
P. fuscicollis
Binomial name
Phalacrocorax fuscicollis
Stephens, 1826
Range of P. fuscicollis

The Indian cormorant or Indian shag (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis) is a member of the cormorant family. It is found mainly along the inland waters of the Indian Subcontinent but extends west to Sind and east to Thailand and Cambodia. It is a gregarious species that can be easily distinguished from the similar sized little cormorant by its blue eyes, small head with a sloping forehead and a long narrow bill ending in a hooked tip.


The Indian cormorant was formally described in 1826 by English naturalist James Francis Stephens and given the current binomial name Phalacrocorax fuscicollis.[2] The specific epithet combines the Latin fuscus meaning "dusky" or "brown" with the Modern Latin -collis meaning "-necked".[3] The species is monotypic: no subspecies are recognised.[4]

A molecular phylogenetic study published in 2019 found that the Indian cormorant was sister to the little black cormorant. It is estimated that the two species split 2.5–3.2 million years ago during the late Pliocene.[5]


This medium-sized bronze brown cormorant is scalloped in black on the upper plumage, lacks a crest and has a small and slightly peaked head with a long narrow bill that ends in a hooked tip. The eyes are blue and it has bare yellow facial skin during the non-breeding season. Breeding birds have a short white ear tuft. In some plumages it has a white throat but the white is restricted below the gape unlike in the much larger great cormorant. Sexes are similar, but non-breeding adults and juveniles are browner.[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

This cormorant fishes gregariously in inland rivers or large wetlands of peninsular India and the northern part of Sri Lanka. It also occurs in estuaries and mangroves but not on the open coast. They breed very locally in mixed species breeding colonies.[6] They extend north-east to Assam and eastward into Thailand, Burma and Cambodia.[7][8][9][10]


In wing-drying posture

The breeding season is July to February but depends on rainfall and water conditions. In northern India, they breed from July to February and in Sri Lanka, between November and February. The nest is a platform of twigs placed in the forks of partially submerged trees or of those growing on the islands. The nests are similar to those of other Indian cormorants, storks or waterbirds in dense colonies, often with several tiers of nests. The usual clutch is three to five eggs which are bluish green and with a chalky surface.[7]

The Indian cormorant makes short dives to capture the fish and a group will often fish communally, forming a broad front to drive fish into a corner.[7]

An echinostomatid parasite has been described from Sindh from this species.[11]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2018). "Phalacrocorax fuscicollis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T22696779A132592646. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22696779A132592646.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ Stephens, James Francis (1826). Shaw, George (ed.). General Zoology, or Systematic Natural History. Vol. 13, Part 1. London: Kearsley et al. p. 91.
  3. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 167. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  4. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (August 2022). "Storks, frigatebirds, boobies, darters, cormorants". IOC World Bird List Version 12.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 21 November 2022.
  5. ^ Kennedy, M.; Seneviratne, S.S.; Rawlence, N.J.; Ratnayake, S.; Spencer, H.G. (2019). "The phylogenetic placement of the enigmatic Indian Cormorant, Phalacrocorax fuscicollis (Phalacrocoracidae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 130: 227–232. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2018.10.019.
  6. ^ a b c Rasmussen PC; JC Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx Edicions. p. 52.
  7. ^ a b c d Ali S; SD Ripley (1978). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. Volume 1 (2nd ed.). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. pp. 39–41.
  8. ^ Thomas WW; CM Poole (2003). "An annotated list of the birds of Cambodia from 1859 to 1970" (PDF). Forktail. 19: 103–127. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-10. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
  9. ^ Sashikumar, C (1991). "Occurrence of the Indian Shag Phalacrocorax fuscicollis Stephens in Kerala". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 88 (3): 442.
  10. ^ Kannan, V; R Manakadan; P Rao; KK Mohapatra; S Sivakumar; V Santharam (2008). "The waterbirds of Pulicat lake, Andhra PRadesh-Tamil Nadu, India, including those of the adjoining wetlands and heronries". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 105 (2): 162–180.
  11. ^ Das, S.N.; Ghazi, R.R. (2011). "Echinostoma valentini sp.n. (Trematoda: Echinostomatidae) from a bird Phalacrocorax fuscicollis in Sindh, Pakistan". Proceedings of Parasitology. 51: 87–97.