Little black cormorant

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Little black cormorant
Little Black Cormorant 280714.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Suliformes
Family: Phalacrocoracidae
Genus: Phalacrocorax
Species: P. sulcirostris
Binomial name
Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
(Brandt, 1837)

The little black cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) is a member of the cormorant family of seabirds. It is common in smaller rivers and lakes throughout most areas of Australia and northern New Zealand, where it is known as the little black shag. It is around sixty centimetres long, and is all black with blue-green eyes.


The little black cormorant was originally described by Johann Friedrich von Brandt in 1837. Its specific epithet is derived from the Latin words sulcus "groove", and rostrum "bill". The common name in New Zealand is the little black shag.[2]


The little black cormorant is a small cormorant measuring 60–65 cm (23.5–25.5 in) with all black plumage. The back has a greenish sheen.[3] In breeding season, white feathers appear irregularly about the head and neck, with a whitish eyebrow evident. The plumage is a more fade brown afterwards.[4] Males and females are identical in plumage. The long slender bill is grey,[2] and legs and feet black. The iris of the adult is green and the juvenile brown. Immature birds have brown and black plumage.[4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The little black cormorant ranges from the Malay Peninsula through Indonesia (but excluding Sumatra) and New Guinea (including the D'Entrecasteaux Islands) and throughout Australia.[5] It is found in New Zealand's North Island.[2] It is a predominantly freshwater species, found in bodies of water inland and occasionally sheltered coastal areas. It is almost always encountered in or near water.[3]


The little black cormorant feeds mainly on fish, and eats a higher proportion of fish than the frequently co-occurring little pied cormorant, which eats more decapods. A field study at two storage lakes, Lake Cargelligo and Lake Brewster, in south-western New South Wales found that the introduced common carp made up over half of its food intake.[6]


More gregarious than other cormorants, the little black cormorant can be found in large flocks. Groups sometimes fly in V formations.[3]


Breeding occurs once a year in spring or autumn in southern Australia, and before or after the monsoon in tropical regions. The nest is a small platform built of dried branches and sticks in the forks of trees that are standing in water. Nests are often located near other waterbirds such as other cormorants, herons, ibis, or spoonbills. Three to five (rarely six or seven) pale blue oval eggs measuring 48 x 32 mm are laid. The eggs are covered with a thin layer of lime, giving them a matte white coated appearance. They become increasingly stained with faeces, as does the nest, over the duration of the breeding season.[7]

Various views and plumages[edit]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Phalacrocorax sulcirostris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Falla, Robert Alexander; Sibson, Richard Broadley; Turbott, Evan Graham (1972) [1966]. The New Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Collins. p. 67. ISBN 0-00-212022-4.
  3. ^ a b c "Little Black Cormorant". Australian Museum - Birds in Backyards. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  4. ^ a b Slater, Peter (1970). A Field Guide to Australian Birds:Non-passerines. Adelaide: Rigby. pp. 207–08. ISBN 0-85179-102-6.
  5. ^ Sibley, Charles Gald; Monroe, Burt Leavelle (1990). Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press. p. 300. ISBN 0300049692. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  6. ^ Miller, B. (1979). "Ecology of the Little Black Cormorant, Phalacrocorax sulcirostris, and Little Pied Cormorant, P. Melanoleucos, in Inland New South Wales I. Food and Feeding Habits". Wildlife Research. 6: 79–95. doi:10.1071/WR9790079.
  7. ^ Beruldsen, Gordon (2003). Australian Birds: Their Nests and Eggs. Kenmore Hills, Qld: self. p. 191. ISBN 0-646-42798-9.