Cormorants are a bird family (Phalacrocoracidae) of about 40 species. Cormorants are also called shags. Three cormorant species occur in Sri Lanka, the Indian Cormorant or Indian Shag (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis), the Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), and the Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger), the latter is by far the most common cormorant in Sri Lanka, mainly in the dry zone, it is sometimes sighted even in the central highlands, in the Nuwara Eliya valley. The Indian Cormorant prefers the wet zone. The Great Cormorant is well-known as “Great Black Cormorant” in Europe and North America” and as “Black Cormorant in Australia”. In Sri Lanka, The Great Cormorant occurs at large tanks and coastal lagoons in the dry zone. All three species are residents in Sri Lanka.
Cormorants are medium to fairly large sized sea birds, the the majority of species have mainly dark plumage. They range around the world, in Hawaii they are only known as vagrants. The diet of all cormorants is fish and sometimes water snakes.
Cormorants are adapted to swimming and diving. They typically dive from the surface. Under water most cormorants propel themselves only with their feet. They sive several meters deep. Cormorants are colonial nesters with one brood per year.
After diving cormorants can be seen holding their wings out in the sun. Sunbathing is normal cormorant behaviour, though some secretions may help to keep their feathers waterproof. The plumage is hard and close, with an undercoat of sof down. The wing drying action is seen even in the flightless cormorant. This typical spread-wing posture may also contribute to thermoregulation or have social functions.
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