Identification: Cormorants are those big, black, rather ugly birds which you often see standing upright on a post, tree or rock with their wings held out to dry. Apart from divers which are smaller with shorter, fatter necks, more gentle heads and less brutish bills, Cormorants could only be mistaken for the smaller but closely related Shags. In summer Cormorants are easily distinguished by conspicuous white patches on their throats and thighs. In winter though you have to rely on differences in shape since Cormorants have a bigger, more triangular head, a flatter crown and more massive bill. Diagnostically the bare yellowish skin around a Cormorant's bill extends around its eye. Juveniles are browner and, unlike young Shags, have a variable amount of white on their bellies. In flight, Cormorants resemble geese but have long diamond shaped tails and tend to fly much higher above the water than Shags.
Habitat: Breeds on rocky headlands and islands, and also, increasingly, by inland lakes, marshes and reservoirs. Winters on coasts, estuaries, rivers, lakes and reservoirs.
Distribution: Seen commonly around all coasts and at many sites inland, where it now breeds in a number of tree-nesting colonies, such as at Fen Drayton Gravel Pits, just north of Cambridge.
Numerous on the Atlantic coasts of Europe but some of the largest and most impressive colonies are inland, for example at some of the fishponds of eastern Europe or the unforgettable Naardermeer near Amsterdam.
Population: The British population is estimated to be around 7 500 pairs, with 4 700 pairs in Ireland. With 13200 birds wintering.
At least 140,000 pairs breed in Europe. Russian population 20000-35000 Turkish population 1600-3000