Cormorant Bird Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

When we think of birds, we tend to think of them up in the sky. Cormorants, however, spend a lot of time under the water. Find out about these fascinating birds, where they live, how they eat, and why their poop is so valuable!!

What is the Cormorant?

We know that people go fishing, but did you know that birds do too? One bird, the cormorant, is so good at fishing that fishermen in Asia use the bird for help. For over a thousand years, fishermen would tie a string around a cormorant's neck. The bird would find fish but wouldn't be able to swallow the fish because of the string. It learned to come back to the fishermen and trade the big fish for a smaller fish to eat. This is done today, but it's usually more to wow tourists than to catch large amounts of fish.

Cormorant fishing in Japan
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There are many different types of cormorants near oceans, bays, rivers, and lakes. The great cormorant, also called the common cormorant, is a dark bird with a long neck and clear, green eyes the color of emeralds, and it's found all around the world. North America has many double-crested cormorants. Most double-crested cormorants migrate, or move from one place to another in groups at specific times of the year.

Double-crested cormorant
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Going fishing

As we said earlier, cormorants forage, or look for food by diving into the water and catching fish. The cormorant will also eat some frogs, shrimp, and other animals. If you look at their bills, you can see the shape is like a hook, and they use this hook-like bill to catch their prey.

They're good swimmers and their feet help them move fast in the water. Scientists used to believe that the cormorant doesn't go very deep, but they recently attached a video camera to a cormorant in Argentina and learned that it could swim 150 feet to reach the seafloor! The scientists were amazed!

The feathers on cormorants' wings get wetter than other water birds, so they need to dry off to be able to fly. To do this, cormorants will come out of the water and spread their wings in the sun. They usually look for areas to fish where there are nearby, high-up places to dry off.

Cormorants spread their wings and let the sun dry their feathers.
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Guano

Cape cormorants and Peruvian cormorants make guano, poop that builds up over many years and is used for fertilizer. It may seem funny, but guano is very valuable. It's hard work collecting guano, which is then sold to other parts of the world. As more people try to find ways to farm without chemicals, guano is becoming increasingly popular.

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