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A photo of a Australian Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius)
Australian Pied Cormorant

Australian Pied Cormorant

Phalacrocorax varius

The Australian pied cormorant, also known as the pied cormorant, pied shag, or great pied cormorant, is a medium-sized bird of the cormorant family. It is recognized by its contrasting black and white plumage, with a black back and upper wings, and a white underside. Males are larger, weighing around 2.2 kg, while females weigh approximately 1.7 kg. The species stands tall at 65–85 cm with a wingspan of 110–130 cm. A distinctive yellow patch between the bill and eye may have inspired the historical name "yellow-faced cormorant." It has a large hooked bill, green eyes with a blue ring, and black legs and feet.

Identification Tips

Look for the large webbed feet, used for underwater pursuit of fish, and the large hooked bill. The green eyes and the small yellow patch between the bill and eye are key features. After diving, the pied cormorant often spreads its wings to dry them due to its inadequate waterproofing.


The pied cormorant is found in marine environments as well as inland waters, including lakes, deep and open wetlands, and rivers. It is often seen roosting in trees, on rocks, or logs in the water.


This species is found around the coasts of Australasia. In New Zealand, it is known as the pied shag or by its Māori name, kāruhiruhi. Its range extends along the east coast of New Zealand to Christchurch and is abundant in the south-west of Australia.


Adult pied cormorants are sedentary and can be found either solitary, in pairs, or in large flocks. They are capable of diving in both shallow and rapidly moving waters, with typical dive times around 40 seconds.


Pied cormorants breed in small, sheltered colonies, often no more than 400 meters from the sea. Courtship involves wing waving and hopping by the male. Nests are large platforms of sticks and foliage, and breeding pairs lay 2-5 eggs with an incubation period of 25-33 days.

Similar Species

The black-faced cormorant is slightly smaller, while the little pied cormorant is substantially smaller.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists mainly of benthic fish 6–15 cm in length, with occasional crustaceans, molluscs, and cephalopods. Hunting is typically performed individually, although larger groups can form when preying on schools of small fish.

Conservation status

The pied cormorant is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, reflecting its large range and stable population. However, it is listed as Nationally Vulnerable in New Zealand, with population trends showing recovery from historical declines.

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Australian Pied Cormorants on Birda


More Cormorants, Shags

A photo of a Shag (Gulosus aristotelis)


Gulosus aristotelis
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