cormorant



cormorant defined in 1930 year

cormorant - Cormorant;
cormorant - Upper head and neck black, striated with hair-like white feathers, those on the occiput being elongated, and forming a crest in spring; throat white; gular pouch yellow; mantle black and bronze- brown; all the other parts black, except a white patch on the thigh, assumed early in spring and lost in summer; iris emerald-green. Female: larger than the male, brighter in colour, and with longer crest. Length, three feet.

To those who know it slightly the cormorant is a big, sombre, ugly bird, heavy and awkward in his motions out of the water, and, when breeding, disgusting in his habits. He improves on a closer acquaintance. He may be easily tamed, and makes an intelligent, and sometimes very amusing, pet, and is capable of being trained to catch fish for his keeper. He is most frequently met with on the sea and seashore, but is an inhabitant of inland waters as well, and sometimes breeds beside them, making his nest on the ground or in a tree. He feeds exclusively on fishes and eels, which he captures by diving and pursuing them under water, sometimes for considerable distances. The bird is proverbial for its voracity. Its ' swallow ' is probably the largest of any bird of its size - a fish fourteen inches long has been taken from its gullet. When swimming he presents a curious appearance: his body, as if too heavy for the element it floats in, sinks like a waterlogged boat, until the flat back is on a level with the surface. When alarmed, he sinks his body deeper and deeper at will, until the head and long neck alone appear, looking like the head and neck of a serpent swimming with body submerged. When resting on a rock after feeding cormorants stand very erect and motionless, their long, hooked beaks much raised, and at such times they present a heavy, ungainly appearance. They are fond of opening their wings out to their greatest extent to dry their feathers, and remain for a long time in this attitude, looking like birds with spread wings carved out of black stone. The cormorant watches the water at times from a rock, and dives after its prey; but it more often swims, when fishing, with head and neck submerged. When taking wing it rises heavily and with great labour, but when once fairly launched the flight is powerful. Cormorants are gregarious and social birds at all seasons, and, like gulls and herons, they breed in communities. Very early in spring, or shortly after the winter solstice, the bird's nuptial ornaments - a crest on the head and a white patch on the thigh - begin to appear; both crest and white mark disappear at the end of the breeding season. The same nesting-place is resorted to year after year, as in the case of most species that breed in communities. The summit of a crag not easily accessible, or a ledge of rock on a cliff fronting the sea, or a rocky island, are favourite sites. Here the birds, sometimes in hundreds, live together in the greatest harmony, building their nests close together, in some cases almost touching. The nest is pyramidal in form, built up from the rock to a height of from six or seven inches to a couple of feet, and is composed of sticks, coarse grass, and seaweed. Three to five eggs are laid, very small for the bird's size, narrow and long in shape, of a pale greenish blue colour, overlaid with a thick coat of a chalky substance. This substance is quite soft when the egg is first laid; it is then white, but soon hardens, and becomes stained, in the always wet and filthy nest, to a dirty yellowish colour. The young birds are hatched blind, and have a naked, bluish black skin, but they soon grow a thick, sooty black down. They are at all stages strange and repulsive-looking creatures, and when handled or approached by a person they become sick with fear or anger, and roll and sprawl about on their nests, screaming harshly, and vomiting their half-digested food.

The young are fed with fish that has already been partially digested in the maw of the parent. It is not disgorged; the young bird thrusts his head and neck deep down into his parent's gullet, and feeds as a horse does from his nose-bag.

The young are said not to assume the adult or breeding plumage until the third year.

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