A great egret looks for breakfast at Calamvale Creek


Scientific stuff

Little pied cormorant
Also called
yellow-faced cormorant,
yellow-billed shag,
black and white shag

Phalacrocorax melanoleucos
50-60 centimetres
(20-24 inches)

Medium-sized black and white water bird with yellow bill. Black all down back, neck, and top of head. Black wings, black tail, white underbody. Webbed feet.

Stretches out wings to dry after hunting for food in water.

Commonly found in sheltered water areas, such as creeks, dams, swamps, small lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams.

Often solitary on inland bodies of water, but socialises well with, and is often seen with, little black cormorants, ibises, and spoonbills.

Using our photos

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Lucky's photos

Lucky stays around Calamvale Creek more than most of the other medium-large waterbirds.

The photographer said:
“You are more likely to see Lucky than most of the itinerant birds such as egrets, herons, and spoonbills that visit the creek.

“But you will often see him in the company of other waterbirds when they are around.

“He particularly likes the large white birds, and follows them around when they visit the creek.

“He is easily scared off, and generally won't let people get close to him.

“A few times when I had thought he was no longer at the creek I found him in other areas either in or around the water.

“He seems to be able to find a wider variety of prey than many other birds, and perhaps that's why he stays longer.”

Critters of Calamvale Creek

Lucky, the little pied cormorant

Also called yellow-faced cormorant, yellow-billed shag, black and white shag

Phalacrocorax melanoleucos

little_pied_cormorant_1 (28K)Well, hello there. I'm Lucky the little pied cormorant.

They call me Lucky because I always seem to be able to find food here in Calamvale Creek — even when some of the other water-feeders have given up.

That's because I don't wade in the shallows of the creek like egrets, herons, and spoonbills. I dive out in the middle of the creek where others fear to go.

I feed on a wide assortment of small water critters. I particularly like crustaceans, but if they are not in good supply I am happy to feast on fish and water insects.

Why do I stretch out my wings?

little_pied_cormorant_2 (24K)People wonder why cormorants so often hold out their wings.

Well, even though we are water birds, and spend a lot of time in the water rounding up our food, our wings are not waterproof.

So when we come up after diving for a meal, our wings can be quite waterlogged. Holding them out to dry lets the water drip off and lets the sun and breeze dry up the moisture.

Where do I live?

I feel at home in both freshwater and saltwater. Most little pied cormorants love yabbies (freshwater crayfish or marine prawns), and I certainly wouldn't refuse a good yabby meal. But it depends on food availability. I have fished in inland lakes, billabongs, the Brisbane and Bremer Rivers, Moreton Bay, and in dams on farms.

At Calamvale Creek I mostly hunt for prey on Golden Pond around Golden Avenue. I sometimes rest on the open rocks (see me in the photo below with Irma the ibis), but I also have a resting spot further down the creek on a dead branch that overhangs the water.

little_pied_cormorant_ibis_3 (21K)

I will stay as long as the water provides meals for me. I look elsewhere when the creek dries up or competition for the same meal becomes too severe.

You can see me in the photo below on the cormorants' “resting branch” with Lionel the little black cormorant. Lionel recently said he was going to look elsewhere for food and would be back when the creek fills up with fish again.

little_pied_plus_black_cormorant_4 (23K)

Who are my friends?

I get on well with all the water birds that live at or visit the creek. I especially like the large female white birds, and try to get their attention when they visit. But although I'm lucky catching fish, I'm not lucky in love.

I fall for all the big white birds — see me below showing off and calling out to Sugar the spoonbill for instance. But they all leave the creek when I'm asleep before the sun comes up. Sugar told me to stop stalking her, but all I wanted to do was sing love songs to her. “Uk-uk urk, uk-uk urk-uk urk, my sweet Sugar.” How could she resist a serenade like that?

little_pied_cormorant_plus_spoonbill_6 (25K)

Cormorant babies

Phalacrocorax_melanoleucos_5 (31K)When cormorants start a family, we usually breed in colonies. The colonies are not huge, but we like to congregate with other cormorants, herons, ibises, and spoonbills.

We like well-vegetated areas, and build a shallow nest of sticks and tree bark, 30-35 centimetres (12-14 inches), in a branch overhanging water.

We blanket the nest with green and dead leaves, and Mrs Little Pied Cormorant lays up to 5 eggs, tinted pale blue.

Both Mother and Father share in incubating the eggs, and when the chicks arrive they have a reddish tinge on their heads where the skin shows through until the feathers grow over.

— Lucky the little pied cormorant