Cormorants, Darter

Indian Cormorant

Medium-sized cormorant, smaller and slighter than Great, with thinner head, neck and bill; told from Little by larger size, longer, thinner neck, bill, and shape of head – oval rather than angular; no crest; breeding plumage black with bronze-green sheen, white ear-tuft, white flecked-feathers on neck, blackish gular pouch; non-breeding shows browner plumage, no ear-tuft or white plumes, yellower gular pouch; immature whiter below; gregarious; often in flocks; will fish together  with Little; colonial nester.

Great Cormorant

Sexes alike. Breeding adult: black plumage with metallic blue-green sheen; white facial skin and throat; bright yellow gular pouch and white thigh patches;  silky white plumes on head and neck. Non-breeding adult: no white thigh patches; gular pouch less bright. First year young: dull brown above, white below. Aquatic. Not a gregarious species outside breeding season; usually one or two birds feeding close by; dives underwater in search of fish.

Little Cormorant

Sexes alike. India’s smallest and most common cormorant; short, thick neck and head distinctive; lacks gular patch. The Indian Cormorant P. fuscicollis is larger with a more oval-shaped head. Breeding adult: black plumage has blue-green sheen; silky white feathers on fore-crown and sides of head; silvery-grey  wash on upper back and wing-coverts, speckled with black. Nonbreeding adult: white chin and upper throat. Gregarious; flocks in large jheels; swims with only head and short neck exposed; dives often; the hunt can become a noisy, jostling scene; frequently perches on poles, trees and rocks, basks with wings spread open.


Sexes alike. Long, snake-like neck, pointed bill and stiff, fan-shaped tail confirm identity. Adult: black above, streaked and mottled with silvery-grey on back  and wings; chocolate-brown head and neck; white stripe down sides of upper neck; white chin and upper throat; entirely black below. Young: brown with  rufous and silvery streaks on mantle. A bird of deep, fresh water; small numbers scattered along with Little Cormorants; highly specialized feeder, the entire structure of the bird is modified for following and capturing fish underwater; swims low in water with only head and neck uncovered; chases prey below water with wings half open, spearing a fish with sudden rapier-like thrusts made possible by bend in neck at 8th and 9th vertebrae, which acts as a spring as it straightens. Tosses fish into air and swallows it head-first. Basks on tree stumps and rocks, cormorant style.