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Cormorants – The Large Water Birds

Cormorants Quiz
Cormorants Quiz

The name cormorant might sound like a name for an insect, but cormorants are actually large water birds. Cormorants live in coastal areas or near lakes and rivers. They are usually black, brown or grayish. During the mating season, some cormorants develop brilliant white or blue patches on their throats or thighs.

Cormorants are aquatic birds that are known for their excellent diving and swimming abilities. They have streamlined bodies and webbed feet, which enable them to navigate through water with ease. Cormorants are skilled hunters and primarily feed on fish.

They can dive to great depths and stay underwater for extended periods of time in search of prey. These birds have a unique way of catching fish by using their sharp beaks to snatch them from the water. Cormorants are found in various parts of the world and are often seen near coastlines, rivers, and lakes.

Cormorants Facts for Kids

  • Cormorants are water birds.
  • They catch fish with their beak.
  • They have black or brown feathers.
  • Can often be seen drying wings.
  • They’re found around the world.
  • They dive underwater to hunt.
  • Cormorant nests are made with seaweed.
  • They have long necks and bills.
  • Their feet are webbed for swimming.
  • Females and males look alike.

Aquatic birds

Cormorants are captivating species of aquatic birds that can pique children’s interest due to their intriguing attributes. Recognizable for their dark brown or black plumage, they stand out against the water, making them easy to identify.

Their primary diet consists of fish, which they skillfully catch by diving from the air into the water. Remarkably, cormorants can dive up to 25 meters deep, a distance equivalent to the length of two school buses. However, unlike most birds, their feathers lack waterproofing, leading them to commonly spread their wings for drying after a dive.

Moreover, their webbed feet, similar to ducks, enable them to swim efficiently. Therefore, if you find yourself near a water body, keep an eye out for these amazing divers and swimmers!


Cormorants are an intriguing species of large, traditionally black seabirds that children would find captivating to study. They have an exceptional characteristic that sets them apart from other seabirds: their extraordinary ability to dive from the sky into the sea and swim underwater to catch their prey, typically fish and eels.

This is made possible because their feathers contain less oil than most birds, enabling them to remain submerged for extended periods. After diving, it’s common to observe cormorants standing with their wings spread wide to dry in the sun. Additionally, they’re known to form nesting colonies along the coastline, in trees, or on cliffs, so seeing one cormorant usually indicates the presence of more in the vicinity.

Fishing birds

Kids will find the cormorants, remarkable fishing birds, intriguing due to their exceptional diving skills utilized for underwater prey capture. These fascinating birds are characterized by their long bodies, necks, and beaks, all specifically adapted to ensure water maneuverability.

Unlike most water birds, cormorants possess a unique trait; their feathers are not fully waterproof. While seemingly a disadvantage, this feature aids in reducing their buoyancy, enabling them to dive deeper. Post their fishing ventures, it’s a common sight to see them standing, wings spread out, basking in the sun to dry off.

As incredible swimmers, cormorants can dive up to 100 feet deep to catch their prey, including fish, eels, and water snakes, cementing their status as exceptional fishing birds.


Cormorants, an intriguing variety of waterbirds that captivate children, are medium-to-large in size, characterized by their elongated necks and pointed hooked beaks.

These birds are famed for their exceptional diving skills, as they employ their webbed feet to chase fish underwater. Unique among waterbirds, cormorants have non-waterproof feathers, necessitating them to dry their wings in the sun after diving, a sight typically seen on rocks or branches where they spread their wings wide. Another distinctive feature is their radiant blue eyes.

Cormorants are a diverse species with about 40 types found across the globe, possessing a lifespan of up to 20 years in the wild.

Bird behavior

Cormorants, unique species of birds, are distinguished by their intriguing behaviors, particularly their fishing technique. Unlike the majority of birds that fish from the water’s surface, cormorants display an exceptional ability to dive underwater, reaching depths of 25-30 feet and remaining submerged for up to a minute to catch their prey.

Their feathers, interestingly, are not fully waterproof, a trait that enhances their underwater diving efficiency. However, this also necessitates a drying-off period after their underwater exploits, often leading to the sight of these birds perched on land, wings spread out in the sun. Aside from their individual activities, cormorants are also noted for their social nature, frequently observed in large groups or colonies.

Bird migration

Cormorants, intriguing medium to large-sized birds known for their dark color, captivate bird enthusiasts with their extensive migration patterns. These birds often embark on long journeys from their breeding grounds to wintering areas, covering impressive distances.

A prime example is seen in North America, where cormorants domiciled in the northern regions migrate southwards every winter, a journey spanning hundreds of miles that typically commences in September and concludes in November. Remarkably, a subset of cormorants, referred to as ‘double-crested’ cormorants, undertake an exceptional journey from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Employing a combination of flapping and gliding in their flight, these birds often adopt a V formation.

This extraordinary annual migration exemplifies the impressive travel capabilities of birds.

Coastal ecosystems

Cormorants, large birds with a dark hue, are intriguing creatures that significantly contribute to the vitality of coastal ecosystems. They are primarily recognized for their exceptional diving skills, utilizing their webbed feet to plunge deep beneath the water to catch fish, making them a pivotal component in coastal food chains. In addition to their predatory role, cormorants also enhance the health of coastal habitats through their nutrient-rich guano, which promotes plant growth.

They also exhibit a preference for nesting near water bodies, often forming large colonies on cliffs or trees, offering a captivating spectacle for young nature enthusiasts. Despite their somewhat formidable appearance, cormorants pose no threat to humans and play a fundamental role in maintaining the ecological balance of their habitats.

Plumage and feathers

Cormorants, intriguing birds recognized for their distinctive plumage and feathers, possess a set of traits that uniquely equip them for their environment. Unlike most birds, cormorants’ feathers lack waterproofing, which, contrary to initial perceptions, is an advantage as it aids their deep-sea diving and underwater hunting.

Their feathers absorb water, increasing their weight, which facilitates their ability to dive and swim effectively underwater. Their typically black or dark brown plumage provides excellent camouflage in their natural habitats. After their underwater exploits, cormorants often engage in a distinctive behavior, standing with wings spread out to dry in the sun, a necessary act to shed the additional weight before they can regain effective flight.

This unique behavior is among the cormorant’s most recognizable traits.

Bird conservation

Cormorants, distinctive for their long necks and strong, hooked beaks, are intriguing birds that play a crucial role in preserving our ecosystem’s equilibrium. Their expert swimming and diving skills make them adept at catching fish, their primary food source.

However, they face significant threats such as habitat loss, pollution, and overfishing, leading to declining populations in some regions. The protection of these birds is paramount, given their role in regulating fish populations, which ensures a balanced and thriving aquatic environment.

Consequently, global efforts are underway to safeguard their habitats and shield them from harm, underlining the significance of bird conservation in maintaining biodiversity.


Cormorants, a captivating bird species with their large size, long necks, and distinctive hooked bills, are ideal for young birdwatchers to study.

Dwelling in and around bodies of water globally, they exhibit excellent diving skills for catching fish, their primary food source. Unusually, their feathers lack waterproofing, leading to the common sight of them perched with wings spread out to dry post-dive.

This accessibility and unique behavior make spotting and observing cormorants an exciting educational opportunity for budding birdwatchers.

Cormorant on a Rock Image - Science for Kids All About Cormorants
All about cormorants, large water birds that live in coastal areas or near lakes and rivers and are usually black, brown or grayish.

Cormorants, like most waterfowl, eat fish and shellfish. They are expert swimmers and can dive up to 100 feet deep to catch fish. They can stay underwater for more than one minute!

Cormorant Catching a Fish Image
Cormorants, like most waterfowl, eat fish and shellfish.

Fun Facts about Cormorants for Kids

  • Cormorants build nests on rocky crags to protect their babies. Sometimes they use old blue heron nests high in trees.
  • Cormorants nest in colonies and drop their poop on trees, bushes and rocks. Because so many cormorants nest in one place, their poop can stain rocks or even kill trees!
  • Cormorant mothers and fathers take turns sitting on their eggs. Once the babies are born, their parents feed them half-eaten fish.
  • Cormorants are sometimes harmed by pollution or oil in the water.
A Cormorant Colony Nesting Image
Cormorants nest in colonies.

Cormorant Vocabulary

  1. Coastal: along the coast
  2. Brilliant: bright, colorful
  3. Waterfowl: birds that live near water
  4. Crags: cliffs or protected areas
  5. Colony: group
Cormorant Spreading its Wings Image
cormorants spread their wings out in the sun to dry their feathers.

Learn More All About Cormorants

Watch this amazing video about cormorants and Chinese fishermen:

A video of how Chinese fishermen use the cormorants to fish.

Cormorant Q&A

Question: Are cormorants useful to people?

Answer: Sometimes people don’t like cormorants because they make a big mess, but Chinese fishermen train cormorants to catch fish.


Question: Why do cormorants spread their wings out in the sun?

Answer: Some scientists believe cormorants don’t have protective oil in their feathers like other waterfowl. They might be drying their feathers.


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