Cormorants and Darters

Cormorants belong to the Phalacrocoracidae family and Darters to Anhingidae, see Taxonomy note. This page features a gallery for each family and images depict behaviours in both salt and freshwater environments.

Cormorants and Darters

Cormorant and Darter Notes

Apart from the Stewart Shag which is ‘Red List 2019’ assessed as ‘Vulnerable’ all other featured species are ‘Least Concern’. The Stewart and Spotted Shags are NZ endemics. In New Zealand, the Pied Cormorant is called the Little Shag.

Anhinga and cormorants, including shags, are medium to large birds. They do not have waterproof plumage, so they sit low in the water; the lack of buoyancy allows them to dive deep in search of prey. Cormorants congregate in groups while shags are more solitary coastal birds.

Little Shags have variable plumage including black (dark morph) and white-throated morph as featured in the gallery.

Cormorant Behaviour

Cormorant Behaviour Notes

Cormorants are cosmopolitan birds found mainly in temperate and tropical regions.

The gallery displays a short photo essay of a Little Pied Cormorant fishing and swallowing its captured prey. I photographed this bird at Campden Inlet in New South Wales together with a bird drying out at Lakes Entrance in Australia.

Included in the gallery are other images that show various behaviours, such as cormorants drying out and preening. One of the Flightless Cormorant images shows a bird drying out; compared with other species wings it’s not difficult to see why it can’t fly. For size comparison, I’ve included an image showing an Australian Pelican and a Little Black Cormorant.

Darter Behaviour

Darter Behaviour Notes

Images show a male, female, immature (juvenile) and young Australasian Darters pruning and drying out. I photographed the birds at two locations: Kakadu National Park and Fogg Dam in Australia’s Northern Territories. One image shows a predator (White-bellied Sea Eagle) and potential prey (Australasian Darter) perched in the same tree at Kakadu. The eagle had been fishing so probably not interested in the darter. In Singapore, I’ve seen these eagles attack and try to take grey herons which are slightly larger and heavier than Australasian Darters.

Cormorant and Darter Taxonomy

The Core Waterbirds Webpage describes the higher-level taxonomy for Cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae) and Darters (Anhingidae), in Suliformes order, part of the Aequornithes (Core Waterbirds) clade.