©Peter Cairns/2020VISION


Scientific name: Phalacrocorax carbo
The cormorant is an excellent fisher. It is most easily spotted when it is perched, stretching its wings out in the sun to dry after a dive. The UK holds internationally important wintering numbers of cormorant.

Species information


Length: 85-90cm
Wingspan: 1.5m
Weight: 2-2.5kg
Average lifespan: 11 years

Conservation status

Common. Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2021).

When to see

January to December


Cormorants are large, black waterbirds. They feed on fish, which they catch with their long, hook-tipped bills while swimming underwater. Cormorants nest on low cliffs around the coasts, or in colonies in trees on lakes and flooded gravel pits. Cormorants can often be spotted perched on a rock or bank with their wings held out. In this stance, they are able to dry their feathers off which are not waterproof.

How to identify

The cormorant is a large, shiny black bird, with a white patch on the thigh during the summer breeding season. Young birds are dark brown above and white below.


Found around the coast and on lakes, reservoirs and rivers inland.

Did you know?

In China, tame cormorants are used by fishermen as a traditional method of catching fish. A snare is tied around the bird's throat to stop it swallowing bigger fish (although it can still eat small ones), which are then spit up for the fishermen. In different parts of the world, this practice uses different species of cormorant, but it has mostly now become an activity for the tourist industry.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many wetland and coastal nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.


Cormorant by Tom Hibbert