A great egret looks for breakfast at Calamvale Creek


Scientific stuff

Little black cormorant

Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
60-65 centimetres (24-26 inches)

Medium-large black water bird. Slim, slightly hooked grey bill, and light tinges on wing feathers. Storm-grey face, short thin legs but large webbed feet. Feathers may show greenish or bronze sheen.

Little black cormorants are rarely found far from water. They hunt underwater by rounding up shoals of fish. They are often seen perched on dead branches over water, or on rocks, with wings outstretched drying off. They fly in a V formation, but when settled in an area they usually stay as long as the food source remains.

Good hunter. Likes to be in groups. Associates well with little pied cormorants, egrets, and other water birds.

Using our photos

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Lionel's photos

Lionel or some of his cormorant friends are usually somewhere around the creek.

They take turns sunning themselves on dead branches or large rocks, and occasionally get together to swap fish-hunting strategies with other cormorants.

The photographer said:
“Lionel isn't too hard to photograph because he stays around a few favourite spots in the creek.

“The only problem is that he doesn't like people close to him, and flies off if anyone gets into his personal space.

little_black_cormorant_sidebar (4K)

“He occasionally flies in circles over the creek before deciding where he will rest or look for his next meal. The photo above shows him doing that.

“He used to sit with wings outstretched on a garbage bin that had been dumped in the creek. But when the creek flooded on January 25, 2007, the bin washed downstream and Lionel had to find another perch.”

Critters of Calamvale Creek

Lionel the little black cormorant

Phalacrocorax sulcirostris

little_black_cormorant1 (19K)Hullooo. I'm Lionel the little black cormorant, and I am one of the critters of Calamvale Creek in Brisbane, Australia.

One thing I'm especially good at is diving for fish. I can stay underwater for 30 seconds if necessary. I frequently take prey from the middle of the creek, and this is an area that the creek-bank loving Eddy the egret never goes.

Where do I live?

little_black_cormorant2 (22K)We cormorants love water. You won't find us in dry areas, and once we have settled in an area we will usually stay as long as there is a food supply.

Our numbers increase with time, and that will probably happen at Calamvale Creek.

At one time I was the only cormorant here, but the numbers of little blacks and pied cormorants visiting the wetland have been increasing.

My feathers are not waterproof, so you will often see me after a dive with my wings outstretched drying off. All the cormorants used to fight for a spot to dry off on a garbage bin that got into the creek, but during a heavy storm the day before Australia Day in January 2007, the bin washed downstream.

We also like perching on large rocks, and on dead branches that stick out of the water.

What do I eat?

little_black_cormorants3 (34K)

I dive for fish, little crustaceans, and eat aquatic insects. I can chase my food underwater because I have large webbed feet that propel me quickly through the water. I'm like a little black torpedo. Because I'm black, I look like a shadow to fish, so I catch them quite easily.

I have special membranes that cover and protect my eyes as soon as I dive underwater. And I can swim fast. This is what I look like when I'm swimming above the surface.

little_black_cormorant6 (14K)

Where do I build nests?

little_black_cormorant4 (16K) Cormorants breed mainly between spring and autumn, but it depends on food supply.

We build our nests out of dead sticks and fresh twigs, sometimes with the leaves still on them. We line them with leaves or bark, and shape them into a bulky platform with a dish-shaped middle.

They are usually in a fork of a tree, and once you've seen one you'll never forget it.

Mother Cormorant lays 3-6 pale green eggs, and both sexes contribute to nest-building, incubation, and feeding the babies. Our chicks have a dark grey crown.

— Lionel the little black cormorant