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Flightless Cormorant

The flightless cormorant is the only cormorant found in the Galapagos and is also referred to as the Galapagos cormorant.

Flightless Cormorants

They are rare, with only about 700-800 pairs in existence. It’s the largest and heaviest cormorant species in the world and the only one to have lost the power of flight, denoted by its small rather tatty-looking wings.

Although unable to fly, they can use their small wings to help them balance as they jump from rock to rock. In water cormorants use their powerful webbed feet to propel them forward, keeping their wings close to their sides. They dive beneath the water’s surface and use their long necks to seek out eels and octopus, skewering their victims with their beaks. They don’t produce enough oil to waterproof their feathers fully and after swimming they can often be seen holding their wings out to dry them.

Plumage is is blackish on the upperparts and lighter brown below. Sexes look alike although males are larger than females. They have long beaks ending in a pronounced hook, and small turquoise eyes. Juveniles soon develop a dark, glossy coat and have brown eyes, which change colour after about 2 years. Adults have a growling call while young birds have a plaintive call.

Flightless cormorants have an intricate mating dance, interlocking necks and making growling calls as they spin round. They construct bulky nests largely from seaweed, a few feet from the shore. The usual number of eggs is three and both female and male birds take turns to sit on them as they incubate, which takes some 35 days. After the chicks have hatched both parents take turns to feed them.  They breed throughout the year though most eggs are laid between March and September.

Galapagos flightless cormorant can be found around the coast of Isabela and Fernandina, mostly in the west and northwest of the islands close to the water’s edge.