The great cormorant

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Liu Minxia  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A great cormorant is seen catching a fish in the waters of the Shenzhen Bay on Dec. 19, 2020.

The great cormorant

One of the most fabulous spectacles worth observing in our city is the arrival of the great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo). At the beginning of winter, a couple of them will arrive at the shores of Shenzhen Bay Park. Not long after, a black cloud of thousands can be seen flying over the bay and feeding close to the rocks.


The great cormorant is a large black bird about 90 centimeters long, with an impressive 160-cm wingspan. It has a long neck and a sharp pointy beak with a beautiful orange marking at its base. Their black feathers shine like scales under the sunlight, giving them a fantastic look. All four of the birds' toes are connected by webs, making them excellent swimmers, and therefore amazing fishers.


Two great cormorants are feeding on a fish in the Shenzhen Bay on Feb. 21, 2021.

Their feeding habit is fantastic to witness. There is a countercurrent of fresh water and seawater converging near a bridge close to the Metro station in the park, where hundreds of fish gather to feed on detritus. The discerning cormorants won’t miss the opportunity to catch a nice big meal. Here, you will see the birds diving to catch their prey, and then some panicked fish jumping over the water, and then the cormorants fighting against each other to catch and swallow them.


Great cormorants breed in colonies where both the male and female build the nests and help incubate the eggs. A couple can lay a clutch of up to five eggs; both parents take care of the chicks until they are ready to go on their own after two or three months.


Four great cormorants are seen in the Shenzhen Bay Park on Feb. 21, 2021.

Another mesmerizing moment is to watch the birds spreading out their wings on a rock to dry their feathers under the heat of the sun. As they remain in this position for several minutes, you can enjoy them in their full magnificence.