Family

CHAPTER

phylum class subclass order monotypic order suborder family

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The thirty-six species of cormorants are sleek, long-necked, dark waterbirds. They are good at flying and swimming, but they are clumsy when walking. Their length is between 19 and 40 inches (48 and 102 centimeters) from their bills to the end of their tails. Some weigh just 1.5 pounds (0.7 kilograms) and others weigh up to five times as much: 7.7 pounds (3.5 kilograms). Their long, thin, hooked bills have a saw-tooth edge. The Galápagos cormorant is unusual because it has stubby wings and cannot fly.

The four species of anhingas (pronounced an-HING-guz) are similar to the cormorants, but they have even longer necks. In some parts of the world, they are called darters. Their bills are sharply pointed (not hooked) and bright yellow. Their length from their bills to the end of the tails is between 34 and 36 inches (86 and 92 centimeters). They do not have oil glands for waterproofing their feathers.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Cormorants are spread widely across the worlds' continents, except for desert areas and the very coldest regions. The birds that nest in the coldest regions migrate to warmer places in winter. Anhingas live in the warm, tropical and subtropical areas of North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

HABITAT

Cormorants and anhingas live in freshwater wetlands, swamps, lakes, rivers, and estuaries (wet areas near the ocean where freshwater and saltwater mix). Ahingas that live near the ocean stay close to shore, cormorants fly out over the coastal waters.

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