Little Black Cormorant

When in breeding vondition the little black cormorant has a bronze sheen over its black feathers.

When in breeding condition the little black cormorant has a bronze sheen over its black feathers.

The Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris, also known as the little black shag, is a moderately common species in the wetlands and is common throughout the Goulburn region, indeed much of Australia outside of the great central deserts. It is a medium duck-sized bird with black laced (black edges to dark grey/black interiors) feathers and a delicate dark grey bill that is hooked at the tip. Unlike the similar Great (Black) Cormorant it is more slender, much smaller and has no yellow facial skin. It has very small flecks of white around its otherwise black head.

Little black cormorants are usually silent, but on occasion they creak. They prefer to roost in trees for the night and often nest in secluded thickets of trees in swamps. They prefer larger lakes and ponds to small dams and are among the most commonly seen cormorant in the Canberra lakes, where they are often seen in groups perched on logs or tree trunks over water, though they will still visit smaller water bodies, though generally in smaller numbers. Like other cormorants they are gregarious and are often found in the company of other waterfowl. They will also hunt cooperatively and some years ago near Marulan a large group of cormorants was seen to actively and cooperatively round up schools of fish in the company of hoary-headed grebes.

A little black cormorant drying its feathers on a rock in the wetlands.

A little black cormorant drying its feathers on a rock in the wetlands.

Like all cormorants and darters, little black cormorants have sparse feathers that are not waterproof. This helps them to stay under water longer to chase their prey without being forced to bob up by air pockets in their plumage. But this means that, when they leave the water, their feathers are carrying a considerable weight of it with them. This makes it harder to fly, so they will find a dry perch near, preferably over, water and hang themselves out to dry, often in the company of other cormorants. When not disturbed they can often be seen holding their wings out to dry for many minutes at a time.

Little black cormorants are very active hunters. They often will take off from their perches to circle around a water body looking for fish and other prey, such as yabbies. They will then land in the water then dive toward their target. Their large webbed feet enable them to chase their prey for long periods and they are very efficient fishers. This has earned them the outright hatred of some recreational fishermen, who recognise them as so much better at the game that sometimes they can empty a whole dam of expensive hatchling trout and other fish. They have their well earned place in the ecosystem (unlike recreational humans). See comments under the Great Cormorant about this.

Little black cormorants like to sit in each others' company on logs over water or, when there are none, the nearest thing, such as this drainage pipe at Lake Narambulla, north of Goulburn.

Little black cormorants like to sit in each others’ company on logs over water or, when there are none, the nearest thing, such as this drainage pipe at Lake Narambulla, north of Goulburn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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