The largest of the four cormorants’ in the Milton Ulladulla area is the Great Cormorant, Phalacrocoran carbo, which is common about the Ulladulla Harbour, shoreline and coastal lakes, and is found across Australia wherever there is water with plenty of fish in it.
They are mostly all glossy black with yellow bare skin under the eye and a chin bordered by white, but during the breeding season, they often have white leggings and various amounts of white about the head. This is the largest of the Australian cormorants with the slightly smaller Pied Cormorant, the smaller Little Black, and Little Pied Cormorants, and the similar Darter, all seen around our harbour, lakes and coast.
The Black-faced Cormorant are found on the coast from Eden south. The Great Cormorant is found all over Australia wherever there are deep waters, and will take advantage of inland floods with subspecies found in many countries in Asia and around the Indian Ocean. They generally hunt fish in the deeper waters where they dive and use their webbed feet to swim after their prey which they catch in their hooked beak.
Some of the fish appear too large for them to swallow but they have very flexible throats and fish are swallowed head first. After hunting in the cold water and with a stomach full of cold fish, they like to bask in the sun, often with their wings out to gather as much warmth as possible while digesting their catch.
As they often bask on poles around the Ulladulla Harbour, parking under them can come at a cost of a car wash. They breed on some of the coastal islands but mainly inland when wetlands are flooded. There are often large colonies with other water birds taking advantage of the good conditions and food supplies.
Prepared by the Milton Ulladulla District birders (U3A) with information by Birdlife Australia and photograph by Charles Dove. Contact Chris Brandis for further information or check out the Birdlife Australia, Shoalhaven website.