Australian Bush Birds
Black-faced Cormorant  -  Phalacrocorax fuscescens
Black-faced Cormorant
Black-faced Cormorant. Hobart, Tas.
Black-faced Cormorant head Black-faced Cormorant feet
Left. Head of Black-faced Cormorant. The black crown extends down to the top of the dark-grey bill.
Right. The Black-faced Cormorant has black legs and feet as well as a black thigh stripe also seen on the Pied Cormorant but not on the Little Pied Cormorant.
map map The Black-faced Cormorant - Phalacrocorax fuscescens - has a black crown, facial skin and bill; the black crown extends down over the aqua-green/turqoise eyes. Narrow black back of neck. Black wings, tail and thigh stripe to legs. Underside is white. Back feathers are black-edged glossed green above, white below. Grows 61 to 69 centimetres, wingspan 1 metre.

Breeding adults have short white plumes on back of neck and a few on rump and thighs. Non-breeding adults lack short white plumes. Juveniles browner above with sooty face and neck, eye brown.

Black-faced Cormorant - page 2
This is Australia's only entirely marine cormorant living on offshore rock stacks, islets and outer harbour beacons and never penetrating further inland than saline estuaries, inlets and gulfs. The rocky islets it uses for roosting and nesting seldom have fresh water and this cormorant has larger nasal salt glands than other cormorants enabling it to excrete excess salt.

Found along the Australian south coast from central New South Wales to Cape Leeuwin, including Tasmania. Common to abundant and rather sedentary.

Similar to the Pied Cormorant and Little Pied Cormorant. The black crown in the Black-faced Cormorant extends down to the eye and bill; the bill is black. The crown in the Pied and Little Pied Cormorants does not extend down to the eye.

Black-faced Cormorant
Black-faced Cormorants passing the time of day on Bull Rock, near Stanley, Tas. The birds are preening, dozing, or just standing around; they share the rock with many seals, most of them sleeping.
Black-faced Cormorants on Bull Rock Black-faced Cormorant 'gargling'
Left. Pair of dozing Black-faced Cormorants on Bull Rock.
Right. Male Cormorants 'gargle' to attract females; this bird is not in breeding plumage but appears to be practicing 'gargling' preparing for the season. Bull Rock, near Stanley, Tas.
Black-faced Cormorant - page 3
As well, the Black-faced Cormorant has a broad black thigh stripe in line with the legs on each side; the Pied Cormorant also has thigh stripes but the adult Little Pied Cormorant does not. Immature Little Pied Cormorants, with a touch of brown still in their plumage, do have black thigh stripes.

Like other cormorants, the Black-faced Cormorant dives from the water surface to pursue underwater prey - fish and squid. Each dive lasts from 20 to 40 seconds propelled by the fully webbed feet kicking together; the stiff tail of hard, spiky feathers assists the slightly opened wings in underwater balance. Prey is grasped in the hooked bill and carried to the surface. Plumage is permeable and absorbs water so buoyancy is reduced and manoeuverability improved making it a bit easier to catch fish; as well, some Black-faced Cormorants may swallow pebbles as ballast. This ballast may contribute to the slow and laboured way they fly becoming airborne only after much effort, kicking with both feet to take-off. Usually they fly low above the water, occasionally rising to hover at 20 metres or more.

Breeding takes place in colonies, mainly from September to January (but also at other times of the year). Breeding plumage includes short white plumes on the back, rump and thigh. During courtship the male's voice is loud and gutteral, female's a soft hissing. To advertise, males throw back their head, gargle, and wave their wings rapidly four times a second. Nests are built on the ground on the nesting islands using seaweed and leafy material. Man-made platforms at sea are also used as nesting sites.

Up to five (usually three) eggs are laid, limy green, oval, about 57 by 36 millimetres. Incubated by both parents. The young hatch black and naked. As they mature they leave the nest and form creches but are still fed by both parents who bend over and open their mouths so the young can put their heads in for food.