Phalacrocorax carbo 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Suliformes Phalacrocoracidae

Scientific Name: Phalacrocorax carbo
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Great Cormorant, Black Shag, Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant
French Grand Cormoran
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L., Calvert, R., Hatchett, J.
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2009 Least Concern (LC)
2008 Least Concern (LC)
2004 Least Concern (LC)
2000 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
1994 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
1988 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Great Cormorant has an extremely large distribution, being found on every continent except South America and Antarctica. Colonies in North America are restricted to the north-east, although individuals do winter further south up to the tip of Florida (USA). Breeding colonies are also found in in western Greenland (to Denmark). In Europe, the it can be found along most of the Atlantic coast, as well as throught the Mediterranean and in large areas of Eastern Europe. In Africa, it can be found wintering of the northern coast as well as along the Nile, and breeding year-round on the north-west coast, in pockets of central-east Africa and in South Africa. Summer breeding occurs in patches through much of central Asia up to eastern China, year-round wintering occurs in India and southern China, and birds can be found wintering in south-east Asia. Finally, it can be found in most of Australia except central regions, and it also winters in New Zealand1.

Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Angola (Angola); Armenia (Armenia); Australia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Belarus; Belgium; Bermuda; Bhutan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Botswana; Brunei Darussalam; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cambodia; Cameroon; Canada; Chad; China; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Egypt; Eritrea; Estonia; Ethiopia; Faroe Islands; Finland; France; Gabon; Gambia; Georgia; Germany; Ghana; Gibraltar; Greece; Greenland; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Hong Kong; Hungary; Iceland; India; Indonesia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Latvia; Lebanon; Lesotho; Libya; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Malawi; Malaysia; Malta; Mauritania; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Morocco; Mozambique; Myanmar; Namibia; Nepal; Netherlands; New Caledonia; New Zealand; Nigeria; Norway; Oman; Pakistan; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; Russian Federation; Rwanda; Saint Pierre and Miquelon; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Serbia (Serbia); Slovakia; Slovenia; Solomon Islands; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Spain (Canary Is. - Vagrant); Sri Lanka; Sudan; Swaziland; Sweden; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Taiwan, Province of China; Tajikistan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; United States (Georgia); Uzbekistan; Viet Nam; Western Sahara; Yemen; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Cape Verde; Christmas Island; Liberia; Liechtenstein; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Norfolk Island; Northern Mariana Islands; Papua New Guinea; Seychelles
Present - origin uncertain:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 24600000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The global population is estimated to number c.1,400,000-2,900,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population estimates include: >c.1,000 wintering individuals in China; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and >c.1,000 wintering individuals in Korea; c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and >c.10,000 wintering individuals in Japan and possibly c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend Justification:  The overall population trend is increasing, although some populations may be stable and others have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006). This species has undergone a small or statistically insignificant increase over the last 40 years in North America (data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007).
Current Population Trend: Increasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Behaviour Throughout its range the species is sedentary or locally dispersive, with northerly populations also making strong migratory movements (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The timing of breeding varies geographically, occurring all year round (del Hoyo et al. 1992) or coinciding with the rains in the tropics (Johnsgard 1993) and peaking between April and June in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species breeds in mixed-species colonies (del Hoyo et al. 1992) of 10-500 pairs (Nelson 2005) (occasionally up to 1,000 pairs) (Brown et al. 1982), the size of the colony depending upon the extent of nearby feeding areas (Nelson 2005). It is usually a solitary feeder (Brown et al. 1982) but may form large fishing flocks in some areas (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It also roosts communally at nesting sites or in major feeding areas and flies in flocks of varying sizes (Brown et al. 1982). Off the coasts of eastern Jutland and of Læsø, Denmark, flocks sizes of up to 890 individuals were observed (Petersen et al 2003). Feeding is exclusively diurnal. Habitat The species frequents both coastal and inland habitats (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993, Snow and Perrins 1998, Nelson 2005). In marine environments it occurs in sheltered coastal areas on estuaries (del Hoyo et al. 1992), saltpans, coastal lagoons (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993), mangrove swamps, deltas (Johnsgard 1993) and coastal bays (Brown et al. 1982), requiring rocky shores, cliffs and islets for nesting (del Hoyo et al. 1992) but generally avoiding deep water and rarely extending far offshore (Snow and Perrins 1998). It also inhabits fresh, brackish or saline inland wetlands (Nelson 2005) including lakes, reservoirs, wide rivers, flood waters (del Hoyo et al. 1992), deep marshes with open water, swamps and oxbow lakes (Johnsgard 1993), requiring trees, bushes, reedbeds or bare ground for nesting (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and avoiding overgrown, small, very shallow or very deep waters (Nelson 2005). Diet The species' diet consists predominantly of fish, including sculpins, Capelin, gadids (Gremillet et al 2004) and flatfish (Leopold et al 1998) as well as crustaceans, amphibians (del Hoyo et al. 1992), molluscs and nestling birds (Brown et al. 1982). At sea the species preys mostly on bottom-dwelling fish, occasionally also taking shoaling fish in deeper waters (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It is a generalist, having been shown to feed on at least 22 different fish species (Gremillet 1997). Breeding site The nest varies from a depression (Nelson 2005) to a platform of sticks, reeds and seaweed (del Hoyo et al. 1992). On the coast the species nests on inshore islands, cliffs, stacks, amongst boulders and occasionally on artificial structures (del Hoyo et al. 1992), also nesting inland on trees or bushes, in reedbeds or on bare ground (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species usually nests in mixed-species colonies, often re-using sites and nests from year to year (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Foraging range The Great Cormorant has a largely neritic distribution. At sea, it rarely wanders far from the coast, preferring sheltered areas and estuaries where it normally feeds in shallow water. It preys mainly on benthic fish species. It is rarely observed to dive below 10 m (BirdLife International 2000, Petersen et al 2003, Gremillet et al 2004) although it has been recorded at up to 35 m (Gremillet et al 2004). Several studies have shown that this species is able to forage up to 20-25 km from its wintering roosts or breeding colonies. Most foraging trips are confined to within 10 km of the colony (Gremillet 1997, BirdLife International 2000, Petersen et al 2003), but trips up to a 35 km radius have been recorded (Gremillet 1997). Off the coasts of eastern Jutland and at Læsø, Denmark, 75% of recorded birds were seen within 3 km of the coast (Petersen et al 2003). Preferred habitats include granitic boulder, since this is the favoured habitat of labrids, the commonest prey in the diet (Gremillet 1997). The species is also likely to select sandy areas with a high abundance of flatfish or rocky substrates where gobies, wrasse, sea scorpions and small gadoids occur (BirdLife International 2000).
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Unknown
Generation Length (years): 11.3
Movement patterns: Full Migrant
Congregatory: Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is often persecuted by the aquaculture industry and may be shot, drowned or poisoned in attempts to control numbers (Carss 1994). It may also suffer from disturbance from coastal wind farms (wind turbines) (Garthe and Huppop 2004), and is susceptible to avian influenza (Melville and Shortridge 2006) and Newcastle disease (Kuiken 1999) so may be threatened by future outbreaks of these viruses (Kuiken 1999, Melville and Shortridge 2006). Utilisation The species is hunted for recreation and is sold at commercial food markets in Iran (Balmaki and Barati 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
It may be possible to alleviate conflicts between this species and fisheries by using such strategies as preventing birds from landing on fish ponds through disturbance, or creating unsuitable feeding conditions (Kirby et al. 1996).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Phalacrocorax carbo. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22696792A40266447. . Downloaded on 29 May 2016.
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