Key facts

Scientific name: Phalacrocorax carbo

Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding birds: 9,018 pairs

Wintering birds: 41,000

Conservation status: Green

Length: 80 – 100 cm

Wingspan: 130 – 160 cm

Weight: 2.1 – 2.8 kg


Adult cormorants in breeding plumage are glossy black with bronze on their lower back, rump and wings, and blue-black on their upper back and tail. They have a white patch on their thighs.

Cormorants have bare white skin on their cheeks and throat and they have a loose crest on their nape with white feathers on their neck. They have thin horn-coloured bills with a yellow or orange gape and hooked tip. Cormorants’ eyes are emerald-green and their short legs and webbed feet are black. Male and female cormorants look similar although males are slightly larger with a larger bill.

Outside of breeding season cormorants have duller plumage and lose most of their white feathers.

Juvenile cormorants are mottled with a brown neck and white belly.


Cormorants breed in colonies of up to 2000 pairs. Both adults build the nest in cliffs, trees, or bushes from sticks, reeds and seaweed lined with softer materials.

Cormorants lay 2-6 pale chalky-blue eggs which are incubated by both parents for 27-31 days. They place the eggs on their feet underneath their body to keep them warm. Chicks are altricial and blind on hatching. They are fed by both parents and fledge at 50 days but remain with their parents for a further 50 days.


Cormorants eat mostly fish but occasionally supplement their diet with crustaceans, amphibians or insects.


Where to see them

Cormorants are found around the coastlines of the UK on rocky shores, lagoons and estuaries. They are also found inland in lakes, reservoirs and gravel pits.


Szymon Pławecki/xeno-canto

Did you know?

In Norway cormorants are considered sacred birds and it is good look for cormorants to have them gather near your town or village.

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