Conservation Education and Science
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White-breasted Cormorant
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Phalacrocorax carbo lucidus
ORDER: Pelicaniformes
FAMILY: Phalacrocoracidae
RANGE: worldwide
HABITAT: inland waterways and seacoasts
DIET: fish with the occasional crustacean or amphibian

The white-breasted cormorant is a large, dark diving bird with a long neck, large head and an extremely sharp, hooked bill. Breast feathers, as the name implies, are white. The bird dives beneath the water’s surface, arching its body in a graceful curve and disappearing silently under the waves. Swimming swiftly underwater, it uses its broad tail as a rudder and its strong thigh muscles and webbed feet for propulsion. Most prey is brought to the surface before swallowing.

The white-breasted cormorant is able to swallow fish larger than the normal diameter of its neck because a unique musculature of the neck allows it to stretch out. The throat, or gular pouch, is also used as a signaling device and as a means for cooling the body. By panting and fluttering the gular pouch, blood passing through the rich concentration of capillaries is rapidly cooled.

A colonial nester, the bird is often found among other cormorants, darters, herons, spoonbills and ibis. The white-breasted cormorant constructs its stick and grass nest on cliff and building ledges, open ground, bushes or reedbeds. The female lays two-to-six whitish eggs, which both parents incubate for 27-to-31 days. The newly-hatched chicks are completely naked, but quickly grow black downy feathers. The young chicks peck at the bill of an adult until it regurgitates food into the chick’s throat. Fledging occurs about 50 days after hatching, but the young return to the nest site to feed for another six weeks.