Cormorant (Fr. cormoran), a web-footed bird of the order natatores, family phalacro-coracidce, and genus graculus (Linn.); other synonymes are phalacrocorax of Brisson, and caroo of Lacepede. The French and English name is supposed to be a corruption of the Latin corvus marinus (sea raven), given on account of the black color. The bill is moderate, slender, straight, with the culmen concave, and suddenly hooked at the tip; the sides compressed and grooved; wings moderate and pointed; tail rather short and rounded at the end; toes long, the outer rather longer than the middle, and all four united by a full web; the base of the lower mandible with a coriaceous pouch capable of extension. There are about 30 species described, inhabiting every part of the world, living in large flocks on the seacoast and small islands, and sometimes visiting inland lakes and rivers. They feed exclusively on fish, which they catch dexterously and devour voraciously, without discrimination as to species; hence this bird has become the emblem of gluttony. They are excellent divers, flying and swimming under water, and remaining submerged for a long time.
The nest is made of seaweed, grasses, and coarse materials, heaped to a considerable height, and placed on inaccessible rocks or ledges and trees; the eggs are from three to five, long and narrow, of a light greenish and sometimes almost white tint. The common cormorant (G. carbo, Linn.), which may be taken as the type of the genus, has a large oblong head, long and stout neck, with a full body; feet short, strong, and placed far behind. The plumage of the head, neck, lower parts, and lower back is glossy, blended, and silky, and on the upper back and wings compact with loose glossy margins; on the back of the head and neck the middle feathers are elongated, and some of them erectile; around the eye, the base of the bill, and the throat, the skin is bare. The bill is dusky, lighter at the base of the lower mandible; the general plumage is black, glossed with greenish blue.; a white patch on the throat, with some white feathers on the sides over the thighs. The length is 37 inches, and the extent of wings 62 inches; weight 7 1/2 lbs. The female resembles the male, but the white feathers are wanting. Cormorants are common in the south of the United States in winter, going to Labrador and Newfoundland in the spring to breed.
Their flight is strong and swift; the gait on land is awkward and waddling. They procure their food by diving from the surface of the water, and not from on the wing. When they catch a fish in an inconvenient position, they throw it up in the air, and receive it again as it descends head downward. This species is rarely seen further south than Maryland, whence northward it is quite common in winter; it is sometimes seen in northern markets, but the flesh is dark, tough, and fishy; the eggs are seldom eaten, unless from necessity. This bird seems to be extensively distributed in both hemispheres, being common in England, France, and Holland, but rare in Germany and southern Europe; if not the same species in America, Europe, and Asia, it is extremely difficult to distinguish them by any specific characters. In China these birds are trained to fish for their masters; at first a ring is put around the neck to prevent swallowing, but the bird soon learns to bring the fish to its owner, being allowed after he is satisfied to fish on its own account. - The double-crested cormorant (G. dilophus, Vieill.) differs from the Florida cormorant (G. Floridanus, Aud.) chiefly in its larger size,tand its more numerous long featkers behind the eyes.
The former measures 33 inches in length and 51 in extent of wings; weight about 5 1/2 lbs.; the latter measures 30 inches in length, 46 in extent of wings, and weighs only 3 1/2 lbs. The double-crested species also goes north to breed, and spends the winter on the eastern coasts, rarely going further south than the capes of North Carolina, where the domain of the Florida species begins. The Florida cormorant is a constant resident in the southern states, breeding on the keys of the peninsula of Florida; like the others, it is gregarious, and is seldom found more than five miles from land; according to Audubon, it nestles on trees, beginning to pair about April 1. Another American species is the G. violaceus (Gmel.), the most beautiful of all, from the Columbia river. The shag (G. cristatus, Fabr.; P. graculus, Du-mont; C. graculus, Temm.) is a small species, a denizen of nearly the whole world, according to Nuttall.
Common Cormorant (Graculus carbo).
Double-crested Cormorant (Graculus dilophus).