Pathiramanal (Bird Sanctuary)

This 10 acre island on the backwaters is home to many rare varieties of migratory birds from different parts of the world. According to mythology a young brahmin dived into the Vembanad Lake to perform his evening ablutions and the water made way for land to rise from below, thus creating the enchanting island, Pathiramanal (sands of midnight).

The Best Time to Visit Pathiramanal is from June to January.

The island is a Birdwatcher's paradise. It is home to around 91 local species of birds and 50 migratory birds. One can see Pintail Ducks, Common Teal, Night Heron, Cormorant, Darter, Indian Shag, Purple Heron, gulls, terns, large egrets, Intermediate Egret, Cattle Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Little Egret, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Watercock, Whistling Duck, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Little Cormorant and Whiskered Tern. Some people have even reported seeing the Monarch flycatcher.


Cattle Egret

Breeding adult of nominate subspecies
Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Bubulcus
Bonaparte, 1855
Species: B. ibis
Binomial name
Bubulcus ibis
Linnaeus, 1758
B. i. ibis
Linnaeus, 1758
B. i. seychellarum
Salomonsen, 1934
B. i. coromandus
Boddaert, 1783
Ardea ibis
Buphus coromandus
Cancroma coromanda
Lepterodatis ibis
Bubulcus bubulcus

The Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a cosmopolitan species of heron (family Ardeidae) found in the tropics, subtropics and warm temperate zones. It is the only member of the monotypic genus Bubulcus, although some authorities regard its two subspecies as full species. Despite the similarities in plumage to the egrets of the genus Egretta, it is more closely related to the herons of Ardea. Originally native to parts of Asia, Africa and Europe, it has undergone a rapid expansion in its distribution and successfully colonised much of the rest of the world.

It is a stocky white bird adorned with buff plumes in the breeding season which nests in colonies, usually near bodies of water and often with other wading birds. The nest is a platform of sticks in trees or shrubs. Unlike most other herons, it feeds in relatively dry grassy habitats, often accompanying cattle or other large mammals, since it catches insect and small vertebrate prey disturbed by these animals. Some populations of the Cattle Egret are migratory and others show post-breeding dispersal.

The adult Cattle Egret has few predators, but birds or mammals may raid its nests, and chicks may be lost to starvation, calcium deficiency or disturbance from other large birds. This species removes ticks and flies from cattle, but it can be a safety hazard at airfields, and has been implicated in the spread of tick-borne animal diseases.

The Cattle Egret was first described in 1758 by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae as Ardea ibis,but was moved to its current genus by Charles Lucien Bonaparte in 1855. Its genus name Bubulcus is Latin for herdsman, referring, like the English name, to this species' association with cattle[Ibis is a Latin and Greek word which originally referred to another white wading bird, the Sacred Ibis.

The Cattle Egret has two geographical races which are sometimes classified as full species, the Western Cattle Egret, B. ibis, and Eastern Cattle Egret, B. coromandus. The two forms were split by McAllan and Bruce but were regarded as conspecific by almost all other recent authors until the publication of the influential Birds of South Asia.The eastern subspecies B. (i.) coromandus, described by Pieter Boddaert in 1783, breeds in Asia and Australasia, and the western nominate form occupies the rest of the species's range, including the Americas.Some authorities recognise a third Seychelles subspecies, B. i. seychellarum, which was first described by Finn Salomonsen in 1934.

Despite superficial similarities in appearance, the Cattle Egret is more closely related to the genus Ardea, which comprises the great or typical herons and the Great Egret (A. alba), than to the majority of species termed egrets in the genus Egretta. Rare cases of hybridization with Egretta caerulea, Egretta garzetta and Egretta thula have been recorded.

The Cattle Egret is a stocky heron with a 88–96 cm (35–38 in) wingspan; it is 46–56 centimetres (18–22 in) in length and weighs 270–512 grams (9.5–18.1 oz). It has a relatively short thick neck, sturdy bill, and a hunched posture. The non-breeding adult has mainly white plumage, a yellow bill and greyish-yellow legs. During the breeding season, adults of the nominate western subspecies develop orange-buff plumes on the back, breast and crown, and the bill, legs and irises become bright red for a brief period prior to pairing. The sexes are similar, but the male is marginally larger and has slightly longer breeding plumes than the female; juvenile birds lack coloured plumes and have a black bill.

Breeding plumage adult B. i. coromandus

B. i. coromandus differs from the nominate subspecies in breeding plumage, when the buff colour on its head extends to the cheeks and throat, and the plumes are more golden in colour. This subspecies' bill and tarsus are longer on average than in B. i. ibis. B. i. seychellarum is smaller and shorter-winged than the other forms. It has white cheeks and throat, like B. i. ibis, but the nuptial plumes are golden, as with B. i. coromandus.

The positioning of the egret's eyes allows for binocular vision during feeding, and physiological studies suggest that the species may be capable of crepuscular or nocturnal activity. Adapted to foraging on land, they have lost the ability possessed by their wetland relatives to accurately correct for light refraction by water.

This species gives a quiet, throaty "rick-rack" call at the breeding colony, but is otherwise largely silent.

Distribution and habitat
Typical grassland habitat
The Cattle Egret has undergone one of the most rapid and wide reaching natural expansions of any bird species. It was originally native to parts of Southern Spain and Portugal, tropical and subtropical Africa and humid tropical and subtropical Asia. In the end of the 19th century it began expanding its range into southern Africa, first breeding in the Cape Province in 1908 Cattle Egrets were first sighted in the Americas on the boundary of Guiana and Suriname in 1877, having apparently flown across the Atlantic Ocean. It was not until the 1930s that the species is thought to have become established in that area.

The species first arrived in North America in 1941 (these early sightings were originally dismissed as escapees), bred in Florida in 1953, and spread rapidly, breeding for the first time in Canada in 1962 It is now commonly seen as far west as California. It was first recorded breeding in Cuba in 1957, in Costa Rica in 1958, and in Mexico in 1963, although it was probably established before that. In Europe the species had historically declined in Spain and Portugal, but in the latter part of the 20th century it expanded back through the Iberian Peninsula, and then began to colonise other parts of Europe; southern France in 1958, northern France in 1981 and Italy in 1985 Breeding in the United Kingdom was recorded for the first time in 2008.

In Australia the colonisation began in the 1940s, with the species establishing itself in the north and East of the continent. It began to regularly visit New Zealand in the 1960s.

Looking for prey disturbed by a water buffalo

The massive and rapid expansion of the Cattle Egret's range is due to its relationship with humans and their domesticated animals. Originally adapted to a commensal relationship with large browsing animals, it was easily able to switch to domesticated cattle and horses. As livestock keeping spread throughout the world it was able to occupy otherwise empty niches. Many populations of Cattle Egrets are highly migratory and dispersive, and this has helped the species' range expansion. The species has been seen as a vagrant in various sub-Antarctic islands, including South Georgia, Marion Island, the South Sandwich Islands and the South Orkney Islands A small flock of eight birds was also seen in Fiji in 2008.

In addition to the natural expansion of its range, Cattle Egrets have been introduced into a few areas. The species was introduced to Hawaii in 1959, and to the Chagos Archipelago in 1955. Successful releases were also made in the Seychelles and Rodrigues, but attempts to introduce the species to Mauritius failed. Numerous birds were also released by Whipsnade Zoo in England, but the species never established.

Although the Cattle Egret sometimes feeds in shallow water, unlike most herons it is typically found in fields and dry grassy habitats, reflecting its greater dietary reliance on terrestrial insects rather than aquatic prey.

Migration and movements
Some populations of Cattle Egrets are migratory, others are dispersive, and distinguishing between the two can be difficult for this species. In many areas populations can be both sedentary and migratory. In the northern hemisphere migration is from cooler climes to warmer areas, but Cattle Egrets nesting in Australia migrate to cooler Tasmania and New Zealand in the winter and return in the spring. Migration in western Africa is in response to rainfall, and in South America migrating birds travel south of their breeding range in the non breeding season. Populations in southern India appear to show local migrations in response to the monsoons. They move north from Kerala after September. During winter, many birds have been seen flying at night with flocks of Indian Pond Herons (Ardeola grayii) on the southeastern coast of India and a winter influx has also been noted in Sri Lanka.

Young birds are known to disperse up to 5,000 km (3,100 mi) from their breeding area. Flocks may fly vast distances and have been seen over seas and oceans including in the middle of the Atlantic.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 10 million square kilometres (3.8 square miles). Its global population estimated to be 3.8–6.7 million individuals. For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. On the other hand the expansion and establishment of the species over large ranges has led it to be classed as an invasive species (although little, if any impact has been noted yet).

This eastern race adult shows the red flush on the legs and bill present at the height of the breeding season.

The Cattle Egret nests in colonies, which are often, but not always, found around bodies of water.[ The colonies are usually found in woodlands near lakes or rivers, in swamps, or on small inland or coastal islands, and are sometimes shared with other wetland birds, such as herons, egrets, ibises and cormorants. The breeding season varies within South Asia. Nesting in northern India begins with the onset of monsoons in MayThe breeding season in Australia is November to early January, with one brood laid per season. The North American breeding season lasts from April to October. In the Seychelles, the breeding season of the subspecies B.i. seychellarum is April to October.

The male displays in a tree in the colony, using an range of ritualised behaviours such as shaking a twig and sky-pointing (raising bill vertically upwards), and the pair forms over three or four days. A new mate is chosen in each season and when re-nesting following nest failure. The nest is a small untidy platform of sticks in a tree or shrub constructed by both parents. Sticks are collected by the male and arranged by the female, and stick-stealing is rife. The clutch size can be anywhere from one to five eggs, although three or four is most common. The pale bluish-white eggs are oval-shaped and measure 45 mm x 53 mm. (1.8–2.1 in) Incubation lasts around 23 days, with both sexes sharing incubation duties.]The chicks are partly covered with down at hatching, but are not capable of fending for themselves; they become endothermic at 9–12 days and fully feathered in 13–21 days. They begin to leave the nest and climb around at 2 weeks, fledge at 30 days and become independent at around the 45th day.

The Cattle Egret engages in low levels of brood parasitism, and there are a few instances of Cattle Egret eggs being laid in the nests of Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons, although these eggs seldom hatch. There is also evidence of low levels of intraspecific brood parasitism, with females laying eggs in the nests of other Cattle Egrets. As much as 30% extra-pair copulations have been noted.

The dominant factor in nesting mortality is starvation. Sibling rivalry can be intense, and in South Africa third and fourth chicks inevitably starve. In the dryer habitats with fewer amphibians the diet may lack sufficient vertebrate content and may cause bone abnormalities in growing chicks due to calcium deficiency. In Barbados, nests were sometimes raided by vervet monkeys, and a study in Florida reported the Fish Crow and black rat as other possible nest raiders. The same study attributed some nestling mortality to Brown Pelicans nesting in the vicinity, which accidentally, but frequently, dislodged nests or caused nestlings to fall. In Australia, Torresian Crows, Wedge-tailed Eagles and White-bellied Sea Eagles take eggs or young, and tick infestation and viral infections may also be causes of mortality


Breeding eastern race adult with a frog

The Cattle Egret feeds on a wide range of prey, particularly insects, especially grasshoppers, crickets, flies, and moths, as well as spiders, frogs, and earthworms.[43][44] In a rare instance they have been observed foraging along the branches of a Banyan tree for ripe figs. The species is usually found with cattle and other large grazing and browsing animals, and catches small creatures disturbed by the mammals. Studies have shown that Cattle Egret foraging success is much higher when foraging near a large animal than when feeding singly. When foraging with cattle, it has been shown to be 3.6 times more successful in capturing prey than when foraging alone. Its performance is similar when it follows farm machinery, but it is forced to move more.

A Cattle Egret will weakly defend the area around a grazing animal against others of the same species, but if the area is swamped by egrets it will give up and continue foraging elsewhere. Where numerous large animals are present, Cattle Egrets selectively forage around species that move at around 5–15 steps per minute, avoiding faster and slower moving herds; in Africa, Cattle Egrets selectively foraged behind Plains Zebras, Waterbuck, Blue Wildebeest and Cape Buffalo Dominant birds feed nearest to the host, and obtain more food.

The Cattle Egret may also show versatility in its diet. On islands with seabird colonies, it will prey on the eggs and chicks of terns and other seabirds. During migration it has also been reported to eat exhausted migrating landbirds. Birds of the Seychelles race also indulge in some kleptoparasitism, chasing the chicks of Sooty Terns and forcing them to disgorge food.
Non-breeding plumage

Relationship with humans
A conspicuous species, the Cattle Egret has attracted many common names. These mostly relate to its habit of following cattle and other large animals, and it is known variously as cow crane, cow bird or cow heron, or even elephant bird, rhinoceros egret. Its Arabic name, abu qerdan, means “father of ticks", a name derived from the huge number of parasites such as avian ticks found in its breeding colonies.

The Cattle Egret is a popular bird with cattle ranchers for its perceived role as a biocontrol of cattle parasites such as ticks and flies.A study in Australia found that Cattle Egrets reduced the number of flies that bothered cattle by pecking them directly off the skin. It was the benefit to stock that prompted ranchers and the Hawaiian Board of Agriculture and Forestry to release the species in Hawaii.

Not all interactions between humans and Cattle Egrets are beneficial. The Cattle Egret can be a potential safety hazard due to its habit of feeding in large groups in the grassy verges of airports and it has been implicated in the spread of animal infections such as heartwater and possibly Newcastle disease

Common Teal

Common Teal
Male in nuptial plumage (above) and female.
Note typical wide white wing stripe and conspicuous face markings of male.
Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Superorder: Galloanserae
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatinae
Genus: Anas
Species: A. crecca
Binomial name
Anas crecca
Linnaeus, 1758
Global range.
Light green: summer only
Dark green: all year
Blue: winter only
Anas crecca crecca Linnaeus, 1758
Anas crecca nimia Friedmann, 1948

The Common Teal or Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca) is a common and widespread duck which breeds in temperate Eurasia and migrates south in winter. It is the Old World counterpart of the North American Green-winged Teal ( A. carolinensis), which was formerly (and sometimes is still) considered a subspecies of A. crecca. The Common Teal often simply called "the teal" due to being the only one of these small dabbling ducks in much of its range.
The Common Teal is the smallest dabbling duck alive, at 34-43 cm (13-17 in) length and with an average weight of 360 g (13 oz) in drake (males) and 340 g (12 oz) in hens (females). The wings are 17.5-20.4 cm (6.9-8.0 in) long, yielding a wingspan of 53-59 cm (21-23 in). The bill measures 3.2-4 cm (1.3-1.6 in) in length, and the tarsus 2.8-3.4 cm (1.1-1.3 in).

Drake in nuptial plumage
From a distance, the drakes in nuptial plumage appear grey, with a dark head, a yellowish behind, and a white stripe running along the flanks. Their head and upper neck ist chestnut, with a wide and iridescent dark green patch of half-moon- or teardrop-shape that starts immediately before the eye and arcs to the upper hindneck. The patch is bordered with thin yellowsh-white lines, and a single line of that colour extends from the patch's forward end, curving along the base of the bill. The breast is buff with small round brown spots. The center of the belly is white, and the rest of the body plumage is mostly white with thin and dense blackish vermiculations, appearing medium grey even at a short distance. The outer scapular feathers are white, with a black border to the outer vanes, and form the white side-stripe when the bird is in resting position. The primary remiges are dark greyish brown; the speculum feathers are iridescent blackish-green with white tips, and form the speculum together with the yellowish-white tips of the larger upperwing coverts (which are otherwise grey). The underwing is whitish, with grey remiges, dense dark spotting on the inner coverts and a dark leading edge. The tail and tail coverts are black, with a bright yellowish-buff triangular patch in the center of the coverts at each side.

Drake in eclipse plumage (rightmost bird), hen and young
In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake looks more like the hen; it is more uniform in colour, with a dark head and vestigial facial markings. The hen itself is yellowish-brown, somewhat darker on wings and back. It has a dark greyish-brown upper head, hindneck, eyestripe and feather pattern. The pattern is dense short streaks on the head and neck, and scaly spots on the rest of the body; overall they look much like a tiny Mallard (A. platyrhynchos) hen when at rest. The wings are coloured similar to the drake's, but with brown instead of grey upperwing coverts that have less wide tips, and wider tips of the speculum feathers. The hen's rectrices have yellowish-white tips; the midbelly is whitish with some dark streaking.
Immatures are coloured much like hens, but have a stronger pattern. The downy young are coloured like in other dabbling ducks: brown above and yellow below, with a yellow supercilium. They are recognizable by their tiny size however, weighing just 15 grams (about half an ounce) at hatching.

The drake's bill is dark grey, in eclipse plumage often with some light greenish or brownish hue at the base. The bill of hens and immatures is pinkish or yellowish at the base, becoming dark grey towards the tip; the grey expands basewards as the birds age. The feet are dark grey in males and greyish olive or greyish-brown in females and immatures. The iris is always brown. This is a noisy species. The male whistles cryc or creelycc, not loud but very clear and far-carrying. The female has a feeble keh or neeh quack.
Males in nuptial plumage are distinguished from Green-winged Teals by the horizontal white scapular stripe, the lack of a vertical white bar at the breast sides, and the quite conspicuous light outlines of the face patch, which are indistinct in the Green-winged Teal drake. Males in eclipse plumage, females and immatures are best recognized by their small size, calls, and the speculum; they are hard to tell apart from the Green-winged Teal however.
Wintering birds at Purbasthali, Burdwan District of West Bengal (India)
The Common Teal breeds across northern Eurasia and mostly winters well south of its breeding range. However, in the milder climate of temperate Europe, the summer and winter ranges overlap. For example, in the United Kingdom a small summer population breeds, but far greater numbers of Siberian birds arrive in winter. In the Caucasus region, western Asia Minor, along the northern shores of the Black Sea, and even on the south coast of Iceland and on the Vestmannaeyjar, the species can be encountered all year, too.
In winter, there are high densities around the Mediterranean – including the entire Iberian Peninsula and extending west to Mauretania –, on Japan and Taiwan, as well as in South Asia. Other important wintering locations include almost the entire length of the Nile Valley, the Near East and Persian Gulf region, the mountain ranges of northern Iran, and South Korea and continental East and Southeast Asia. More isolated wintering grounds are Lake Victoria, the Senegal River estuary, the swamps of the upper Congo River, the inland and sea deltas of the Niger River, and the central Indus River valley. Vagrants have been seen in inland Zaire, Malaysia, on Greenland, and on the Marianas, Palau and Yap in Micronesia[17]; they are regularly recorded on the North American coasts south to California and South Carolina.
Ecology and status
This dabbling duck is highly gregarious outside of the breeding season and will form large flocks. In flight, the fast, twisting flocks resemble waders; despite its short legs, it is also rather nimble on the ground by ducks' standards. In the breeding season, it is a common inhabitant of sheltered freshwater wetlands with some tall vegetation, such as taiga bogs or small lakes and ponds with extensive reedbeds. In winter, it is often seen in brackish waters and even in sheltered inlets and lagoons along the seashore.
The Common Teal usually feeds by dabbling, upending or grazing; it may submerge its head and on occasion even dive to reach food. In the breeding season it eats mainly aquatic invertebrates, such as crustaceans, insects and their larvae, molluscs and worms. In winter, it shifts to a largely granivorous diet, feeding on seeds of aquatic plants and grasses, including sedges and grains. Diurnal throughout the breeding season, in winter they are often crepuscular or even nocturnal feeders.
It nests on the ground, near water and under cover. The pairs form in the winter quarters and arrive on the breeding grounds together, starting about March. The breeding starts some weeks thereafter, not until May in the most northernly locations. The nest is a deep hollow lined with dry leaves and down feathers, built in dense vegetation near water. After the females have started laying, the males leave them and move away for shorter or longer distances, assembling in flocks on particular lakes where they moult into eclipse plumage; they will usually encounter their offspring only in winter quarters. The clutch may consist of 5-16 eggs, but usually numbers 8-11; they are incubated for 21-23 days. The young leave the nest soon after hatching and are attended by the mother for about 25-30 days, after which they fledge. The drakes and the hens with young generally move to the winter quarters separately. After the first winter, the young moult into adult plumage. The maximum recorded lifespan – though it is not clear whether this refers to the Common or the Green-winged Teal – was over 27 years, which is rather high for such a small bird.
Altogether, the Common Teal is much less common than its American counterpart, though still very plentiful. Its numbers are mainly assessed by counts of wintering birds; some 750,000 are recorded annually around the Mediterranean and Black Seas, 250,000 in temperate western Europe, and more than 110,000 in Japan. In 1990 and 1991, a more detailed census was undertaken, yielding over 210,000 birds wintering in Iran, some 109,000 in Pakistan, about 77,000 in Azerbaidzhan, some 37,000 in India, 28,000 in Israel, over 14,000 in Turkmenistan and almost 12,000 in Taiwan. It appears to be holding its own currently, with its slow decline of maybe 1-2% annually in the 1990s – presumably mainly due to drainage and pollution of wetlands – not warranting action other than continuing to monitor the population and possibly providing better protection for habitat on the wintering grounds. The IUCN and BirdLife International classify the Common Teal as a Species of Least Concern, unchanged from their assessment before the split of the more numerous A. carolinensis.
The Common Teal is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
Cormorants and shags
Fossil range: Late Cretaceous - Recent

Little Pied Cormorant
Phalacrocorax melanoleucos
Scientific classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Infraclass Neoaves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Suborder: Sulae
Family: Phalacrocoracidae
Reichenbach, 1850
Genus: Phalacrocorax (but see text)
Brisson, 1760
3-43, see text
Australocorax Lambrecht, 1931
Compsohalieus B. Brewer & Ridgway, 1884
Cormoranus Baillon, 1834
Dilophalieus Coues, 1903
Ecmeles Gistel, 1848
Euleucocarbo Voisin, 1973
Halietor Heine, 1860
Hydrocorax Vieillot, 1819 (non Brisson, 1760: preoccupied)
Hypoleucus Reichenbach, 1852
Leucocarbo Bonaparte, 1857
Microcarbo Bonaparte, 1856
Miocorax Lambrecht, 1933
Nannopterum Sharpe, 1899
Nesocarbo Voisin, 1973
Notocarbo Siegel-Causey, 1988
Pallasicarbo Coues, 1903
Paracorax Lambrecht, 1933
Poikilocarbo Boetticher, 1935
Pliocarbo Tugarinov, 1940
Stictocarbo Bonaparte, 1855
Viguacarbo Coues, 1903
(but see text)

The bird family Phalacrocoracidae is represented by some 40 species of cormorants and shags. Several different classifications of the family have been proposed recently, and the number of genera is disputed.
There is no consistent distinction between cormorants and shags. The names "cormorant" and "shag" were originally the common names of the two species of the family found in Great Britain, Phalacrocorax carbo (now referred to by ornithologists as the Great Cormorant) and P. aristotelis (the Common Shag). "Shag" refers to the bird's crest, which the British forms of the Great Cormorant lack. As other species were discovered by English-speaking sailors and explorers elsewhere in the world, some were called cormorants and some shags, depending on whether they had crests or not. Sometimes the same species is called a cormorant in one part of the world and a shag in another, e.g., the Great Cormorant is called the Black Shag in New Zealand (the birds found in Australasia have a crest that is absent in European members of the species). Van Tets (1976) proposed to divide the family into two genera and attach the name "Cormorant" to one and "Shag" to the other, but this flies in the face of common usage and has not been widely adopted.
The scientific genus name is latinized Ancient Greek, from fa?a???? (phalakros, "bald") and ???a? (korax, "raven"). This is often thought to refer to the creamy white patch on the cheeks of adult Great Cormorants, or the ornamental white head plumes prominent in Mediterranean birds of this species, but is certainly not a unifying characteristic of cormorants. "Cormorant" is a contraction derived from Latin corvus marinus, "sea raven". Indeed, "sea raven" or analogous terms were the usual terms for cormorants in Germanic languages until after the Middle Ages. The French explorer André Thévet commented in 1558 that "...the beak [is] similar to that of a cormorant or other corvid," which demonstrates that the erroneous belief that the birds were related to ravens lasted at least to the 16th century.
Cormorants and shags are medium-to-large seabirds. They range in size from the Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus), at as little as 45 cm (18 in) and 340 g (12 oz), to the Flightless Cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi), at a maximum size 100 cm (40 in) and 5 kg (11 lb). The recently-extinct Spectacled Cormorant (Phalacrocorax perspicillatus) was rather larger, at an average size of 6.3 kg (14 lb). The majority, including nearly all Northern Hemisphere species, have mainly dark plumage, but some Southern Hemisphere species are black and white, and a few (e.g. the Spotted Shag of New Zealand) are quite colourful. Many species have areas of coloured skin on the face (the lores and the gular skin) which can be bright blue, orange, red or yellow, typically becoming more brightly coloured in the breeding season. The bill is long, thin, and sharply hooked. Their feet have webbing between all four toes, as in their relatives.

Cormorants nesting
They are coastal rather than oceanic birds, and some have colonised inland waters - indeed, the original ancestor of cormorants seems to have been a fresh-water bird, judging from the habitat of the most ancient lineage. They range around the world, except for the central Pacific islands.
All are fish-eaters, dining on small eels, fish, and even water snakes. They dive from the surface, though many species make a characteristic half-jump as they dive, presumably to give themselves a more streamlined entry into the water. Under water they propel themselves with their feet. Some cormorant species have been found, using depth gauges, to dive to depths of as much as 45 metres.
After fishing, cormorants go ashore, and are frequently seen holding their wings out in the sun. All cormorants have preen gland secretions that are used ostensibly to keep the feathers waterproof. Some sources,state that cormorants have waterproof feathers while others say that they have water permeable feathers. Still others suggests that the outer plumage absorbs water but does not permit it to penetrate the layer of air next to the skin. The wing drying action is seen even in the flightless cormorant but commonly in the Antarctic shags and red-legged cormorants. Alternate functions suggested for the spread-wing posture include that it aids thermoregulation digestion, balances the bird or indicates presence of fish. A detailed study of the Great Cormorant concludes that it is without doubtto dry the plumage.
Cormorants are colonial nesters, using trees, rocky islets, or cliffs. The eggs are a chalky-blue colour. There is usually one brood a year. The young are fed through regurgitation. They typically have deep, ungainly bills, showing a greater resemblance to those of the pelicans', to which they are related, than is obvious in the adults.
The cormorants are a group traditionally placed within the Pelecaniformes or, in the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, the expanded Ciconiiformes. This latter group is certainly not a natural one, and even after the tropicbirds have been recognized as quite distinct, the remaining Pelecaniformes seem not to be entirely monophyletic. Their relationships and delimitation - apart from being part of a "higher waterfowl" clade which is similar but not identical to Sibley and Ahlquist's "pan-Ciconiiformes" - remain mostly unresolved.
Notwithstanding, all evidence agrees that the cormorants and shags are closer to the darters and Sulidae (gannets and boobies), and perhaps the pelicans and/or even penguins, than to all other living birds In recent years, three preferred treatments have emerged: either to leave all living cormorants in a single genus, Phalacrocorax, or to split off a few species like the Imperial Shag complex (in Leucocarbo) and perhaps the Flightless Cormorant. Alternatively, the genus may be disassembled altogether and in the most extreme case be reduced to the Great, White-breasted and Temminck's Cormorants.
Pending a thorough review of the Recent and prehistoric cormorants, the single-genus approach is followed here for three reasons: First, it is preferable to tentatively assigning genera without a robust hypothesis. Second, it makes it easier to deal with the fossil forms, the systematic treatment of which has been no less controversial than that of living cormorants and shags. Third, this scheme is also used by the IUCN, making it easier to incorporate data on status and conservation. In accordance with the treatment there, the Imperial Shag complex is here left unsplit too, but the King Shag complex is split up.
Several evolutionary groups are still recognizable. However, combining the available evidence suggests that there has also been a great deal of convergent evolution; for example the "cliff shags" are a convergent paraphyletic group. The proposed division into Phalacrocorax sensu stricto (or subfamily Phalacrocoracinae) "cormorants" and Leucocarbo sensu lato (or Leucocarboninae) "shags" does indeed have some degree of merit - though not as originally intended - but fails to account for basal lineages and the fact that the entire family cannot be clearly divided at present beyond the superspecies or species-complex level. The resolution provided by the mtDNA 12S rRNA and ATPase subunits 6 and 8 sequence datais not sufficient to properly resolve several groups to satisfaction; in addition, many species remain unsampled, the fossil record has not been integrated in the data, and the effects of hybridization - known in some Pacific species especially - on the DNA sequence data are unstudied.
Species in HBW sequence

Cormorant (species unknown) begins its dive

Immature Phalacrocorax atriceps albiventer
This sequence follows the Handbook of Birds of the World
• Double-crested Cormorant or White-crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus
• Neotropic Cormorant or Olivaceous Cormorant, Phalacrocorax brasilianus (or Phalacrocorax olivaceus)
• Little Black Cormorant, Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
• Great Cormorant or Black Shag, Phalacrocorax carbo
• White-breasted Cormorant, Phalacrocorax lucidus
• Indian Cormorant, Phalacrocorax fuscicollis
• Cape Cormorant, Phalacrocorax capensis
• Socotra Cormorant, Phalacrocorax nigrogularis
• Wahlberg's Cormorant or Bank Cormorant, Phalacrocorax neglectus
• Temminck's Cormorant or Japanese Cormorant, Phalacrocorax capillatus
• Brandt's Cormorant, Phalacrocorax penicillatus
• Spectacled Cormorant, Phalacrocorax perspicillatus - extinct (c.1850)
• Common Shag, Phalacrocorax aristotelis
• Pelagic Cormorant or Baird's Cormorant, Phalacrocorax pelagicus
• Red-faced Cormorant, Phalacrocorax urile
• Rock Shag, Phalacrocorax magellanicus
• Guanay Cormorant, Phalacrocorax bougainvillii
• Pied Cormorant or Yellow-faced Cormorant, Phalacrocorax varius
• Black-faced Cormorant, Phalacrocorax fuscescens
• King Shag or Rough-faced Shag, Phalacrocorax carunculatus
• Stewart Island Shag, Phalacrocorax chalconotus
• Chatham Shag, Phalacrocorax onslowi
• Auckland Shag, Phalacrocorax colensoi
• Campbell Shag, Phalacrocorax campbelli
• Bounty Shag, Phalacrocorax ranfurlyi
• Imperial Shag or Blue-eyed Shag, Phalacrocorax atriceps
o White-bellied Shag, Phalacrocorax atriceps albiventer
• Antarctic Shag, Phalacrocorax bransfieldensis
• South Georgia Shag, Phalacrocorax georgianus
• Heard Shag, Phalacrocorax nivalis
• Crozet Shag, Phalacrocorax melanogenis
• Kerguelen Shag, Phalacrocorax verrucosus
• Macquarie Shag, Phalacrocorax purpurascens
• Red-footed Shag, Phalacrocorax gaimardi
• Spotted Shag Phalacrocorax punctatus
• Pitt Cormorant or Featherstone's Shag Phalacrocorax featherstoni
• Little Pied Cormorant, Phalacrocorax melanoleucos
• Long-tailed Cormorant, Phalacrocorax africanus
• Crowned Cormorant, Phalacrocorax coronatus
• Little Cormorant, Phalacrocorax niger
• Pygmy Cormorant, Phalacrocorax pygmaeus
• Flightless Cormorant, Phalacrocorax harrisi
Species in phylogenetic sequence
The peculiar Red-footed Shag (Phalacrocorax gaimardi)
This list attempts to follow a phylogenetic order. If the distinction into subfamilies would be upheld, the "blue-eyed" and related species would probably be the Leucocarboninae, and the groups that follow them the Phalacrocoracinae. The first two lineages (and possibly the Flightless Cormorant) are basal and cannot be assigned to either subfamily.
Basal lineage 1: "Microcormorants", proposed genus Microcarbo or Halietor ("Phalacrocoracinae"); the former genus name would be valid.
Small, short-billed subtropical to tropical marine and freshwater species from the Old World and Australia. They have black feet and almost all lack significant white feathers. They often have a diminutive frontal tuft.
• Little Pied Cormorant, Phalacrocorax melanoleucos
• Long-tailed Cormorant, Phalacrocorax africanus
• Crowned Cormorant, Phalacrocorax coronatus
• Little Cormorant, Phalacrocorax niger
• Pygmy Cormorant, Phalacrocorax pygmaeus
Basal lineage 2: Red-footed Shag. Included in Leucocarbo or Stictocarbo ("Leucocarboninae")
Pacific coast of South America. This species apparently has no close living relatives. It has a highly apomorphic color pattern: naked red base of bill, red feet, and a white neck spot, and it is crestless. It seems to be convergent in some aspects with the punctatus superspecies. What seems sure by now is that this species must be placed in a distinct monotypic genus Poikilocarbo in almost any case, if any species are split from Phalacrocorax at all.
• Red-footed Shag, Phalacrocorax gaimardi

The Double-crested Cormorant's crests are normally not visible

Two Double-crested Cormorant and one fish
Blue-eyed shags and relatives: variously placed in Euleucocarbo, Hypoleucos, Leucocarbo, Notocarbo and Stictocarbo ("Leucocarboninae")
This reasonably well-supported marine clade contains 3 lineages:
1. One containing American species which are black-footed, black-plumaged, and have yellow skin at the base of the bill as well as white display crests behind the eyes in breeding plumage. They occur in marine and freshwater habitats. If considered a genus, they would get the name Dilophalieus.
2. The Rock Shag from southern South America with red skin at the bill base, pink feet, a frontal crest, and an apomorphic white ear-spot
3. A group of numerous close-knit forms from southern Pacific and subantarctic waters which are white below with pink feet but otherwise quite varying in appearance. It contains the King and Imperial complexes and the Guanay Cormorant. Almost all have some amount of white on the upperwing coverts, frontal crests, and blue eye-rings. The crested shags with yellow warts in front of the eyes belong to this group. The genus name Leucocarbo would apply to either this group, or the entire clade.
• Double-crested Cormorant or White-crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus
• Neotropic Cormorant or Olivaceous Cormorant, Phalacrocorax brasilianus
• Rock Shag, Phalacrocorax magellanicus

Guanay Cormorant, Phalacrocorax bougainvillii
• Imperial Shag or Blue-eyed Shag, Phalacrocorax atriceps
o White-bellied Shag, Phalacrocorax (atriceps) albiventer
o Antarctic Shag, Phalacrocorax (atriceps) bransfieldensis
o South Georgian Shag, Phalacrocorax (atriceps) georgianus
o Heard Shag, Phalacrocorax (atriceps) nivalis
o Crozet Shag, Phalacrocorax (atriceps) melanogenis
o Kerguelen Shag, Phalacrocorax (atriceps) verrucosus
o Macquarie Shag, Phalacrocorax (atriceps) purpurascens
• Guanay Cormorant, Phalacrocorax bougainvillii
• King Shag or Rough-faced Shag, Phalacrocorax carunculatus
• Stewart Island Shag, Phalacrocorax chalconotus
• Chatham Shag, Phalacrocorax onslowi
• Auckland Shag, Phalacrocorax colensoi
• Campbell Shag, Phalacrocorax campbelli
• Bounty Shag, Phalacrocorax ranfurlyi

Brandt's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) - crestless, but with ornamental plumes
North Pacific shags: spread between Compsohalieus ("Phalacrocoracinae") and Stictocarbo ("Leucocarboninae"). If a distinct genus, the former name would apply
A well-supported marine group ranging from the Bering Strait to California. They are black-footed and have white ornamental plumes strewn about the head and neck in breeding plumage. They tend to have prominent double crests.
• Brandt's Cormorant, Phalacrocorax penicillatus
• Spectacled Cormorant, Phalacrocorax perspicillatus - extinct (c.1850)
• Pelagic Cormorant or Baird's Cormorant, Phalacrocorax pelagicus
• Red-faced Cormorant, Phalacrocorax urile
Common Shag lineage: formerly in Compsohalieus ("Phalacrocoracinae") and Stictocarbo ("Leucocarboninae")
Black-footed smallish marine shags of Europe and southern Africa. Wahlberg's Cormorant is very tentatively placed here; it seems anatomically more similar to the P. fuscscens, but the more informative characters - the combination of frontal crest and lack of extensive naked skin at bill base in mid-sized Old World species - seem to place it here. If this is correct, they are probably very distantly related due to biogeography.
• Common Shag, Phalacrocorax aristotelis
• Wahlberg's Cormorant or Bank Cormorant, Phalacrocorax neglectus - tentatively placed here
Indian Ocean group: spread between Hypoleucos and Leucocarbo ("Leucocarboninae") and Compsohalieus ("Phalacrocoracinae"). Hypoleucos would be the correct genus name if they were split off.

Little Black Cormorant, Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
A group of black-footed species occurring in tropical coastal or inland habitat between the Persian Gulf and Australia. Most species are tentatively assigned here, based on the combination of range, crestlessness, size, general lack of naked skin ornaments and the presence of some amount of white feathering in the ear region at least in breeding plumage. This clade is not too well supported, but this may be because the two presumed members included in recent researches are quite dissimilar; the three unstudied ones are very similar to one or the other

• Little Black Cormorant, Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
• Indian Cormorant, Phalacrocorax fuscicollis - tentatively placed here
• Socotran Cormorant, Phalacrocorax nigrogularis - tentatively placed here
• Pied Cormorant or Yellow-faced Cormorant, Phalacrocorax varius
• Black-faced Cormorant, Phalacrocorax fuscescens - tentatively placed here
Spotted group: placed in Stictocarbo ("Leucocarboninae"); indeed, they would be the only members of this possibly distinct genus
A superspecies of the New Zealand region. Peculiarly apomorphic, with yellowish legs, prominent double crests, white ornamental plumes on the neck, a grey belly and spotted wings.
• Spotted Shag Phalacrocorax punctatus
• Pitt Cormorant or Featherstone's Shag Phalacrocorax featherstoni
Cape Cormorant: sometimes placed in Leucocarbo ("Leucocarboninae")
Highly plesiomorphic among its relatives; a species from the southern coasts of Africa. It is apparently close to the common ancestor of the next group and, perhaps apart from the all-black plumage, looks almost identical to that long-extinct bird.
• Cape Cormorant, Phalacrocorax capensis

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) drying its wings
True cormorants: these would be retained in Phalacrocorax no matter how the cormorants and shags are split up
They occur from the western Atlantic through the Old World into Australia, usually but not always in marine and temperate to subtropical habitat. They are characteristic, being large, with white cheek and thigh patches, ornamental plumes in the neck, a yellow naked bill base, black feet, and a shaggy nape crest.
• Great Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo
• White-breasted Cormorant, Phalacrocorax lucidus
• Temminck's Cormorant or Japanese Cormorant, Phalacrocorax capillatus
Incertae sedis: Occasionally placed in the monotypic genus Nannopterum, alternatively Compsohalieus ("Phalacrocoracinae") or Leucocarbo ("Leucocarboninae")
The relationships of this species remain unresolved. Confined to the Galapagos Islands, its wings have been reduced by evolution to tiny size. It is extremely apomorphic due to its flightlessness, and its plumage is entirely nondescript. It might be a derivative of the North Pacific lineage, or even the only cormorant somewhat closer to the Red-footed Shag.
• Flightless Cormorant, Phalacrocorax harrisi
evolution and fossil record
Cormorants seem to be a very ancient group, with similar ancestors reaching all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs. In fact, the very earliest known modern bird, Gansus yumenensis, had essentially the same structure, although it was not a cormorant per se. The details of the evolution of the cormorant are mostly unknown. Even the technique of using the distribution and relationships of a species to figure out where it came from, biogeography, usually very informative, does not give very specific data for this probably rather ancient and widespread group. However, the closest living relatives of the cormorants and shags are the other families of the suborder Sulae—darters and gannets and boobies—which have a primarily Gondwanan distribution. Hence, at least the modern diversity of Sulae probably originated in the southern hemisphere.
While the leucocarbonines are almost certainly of southern Pacific origin—possibly even the Antarctic which, at the time when cormorants evolved. was not yet ice-covered—all that can be said about the phalacrocoracines is that they are most diverse in the regions bordering the Indian Ocean, but generally occur over a large area.
Similarly, the origin of the family is shrouded in uncertainties. Some Late Cretaceous fossils have been proposed to belong with the Phalacrocoracidae:
A scapula from the Campanian-Maastrichtian boundary, about 70 mya (million years ago), was found in the Nemegt Formation in Mongolia; it is now in the PIN collection.[19] It is from a bird roughly the size of a Spectacled Cormorant, and quite similar to the corresponding bone in Phalacrocorax. A Maastrichtian (Late Cretaceous, c.66 mya) right femur, AMNH FR 25272 from the Lance Formation near Lance Creek, Wyoming, is sometimes suggested to be the second-oldest record of the Phalacrocoracidae; this was from a rather smaller bird, about the size of a Long-tailed Cormorant.
As the Early Oligocene "Sula" ronzoni cannot be assigned to any of the suloid families—cormorants and shags, darters, and gannets and boobies—with certainty, the best interpretation is that the Phalacrocoracidae diverged from their closest ancestors in the Early Oligocene, perhaps some 30 million years ago, and that the Cretaceous fossils represent ancestral suloids, "pelecaniforms" or "higher waterbirds"; at least the last lineage is generally believed to have been already distinct and undergoing evolutionary radiation at the end of the Cretaceous. What can be said with near certainty is that AMNH FR 25272 is from a diving bird that used its feet for underwater locomotion; as this is liable to result in some degree of convergent evolution and the bone is missing undisputable neornithine features, it is not entirely certain that the bone is correctly referred to this group.
During the late Paleogene, when the family presumably originated, much of Eurasia was covered by shallow seas, as the Indian Plate finally attached to the mainland. Lacking a detailed study, it may well be that the first "modern" cormorants were small species from eastern, south-eastern or southern Asia, possibly living in freshwater habitat, that dispersed due to tectonic events. Such a scenario would account for the present-day distribution of cormorants and shags and is not contradicted by the fossil record; as remarked above, a thorough review of the problem is not yet available.

Double-crested Cormorant in its natural habitat.
One distinct genus of prehistoric cormorants is generally accepted today, if Phalacrocorax is used for all living species:
• †Nectornis (Late Oligocene?/Early Miocene of C Europe - Middle Miocene of Bes-Konak, Turkey) - includes Oligocorax miocaenus
Oligocorax appears to be paraphyletic - the European species have been separated in Nectornis, and the North American ones are placed in the expanded Phalacrocorax. A Late Oligocene fossil cormoran foot from Enspel (Germany), sometimes placed herein, would then be referable to Nectornis if it proves not to be too distinct. All these early European species might belong to the basal group of "microcormorants", as they conform with them in size and seem to have inhabited the same habitat: subtropical coastal or inland waters.
The supposed Late Pliocene/Early Pleistocene "Valenticarbo" is a nomen dubium and given its recent age probably not a separate genus.
The remaining species are, in accordance with the scheme used in this article, all placed in the modern genus Phalacrocorax:
• Phalacrocorax marinavis (Oligocene ?-? Early Miocene of Oregon, USA) - formerly Oligocorax
• Phalacrocorax littoralis (Late Oligocene/Early Miocene of St-Gérand-le-Puy, France) - formerly Oligocorax, might belong into Nectornis
• Phalacrocorax intermedius (Early - Middle Miocene of C Europe) - includes P. praecarbo, Ardea/P. brunhuberi and Botaurites avitus
• Phalacrocorax macropus (Early Miocene ?-? Pliocene of NW USA)
• Phalacrocorax ibericus (Late Miocene of Valles de Fuentiduena, Spain)
• Phalacrocorax lautus (Late Miocene of Golboçica, Moldavia)
• Phalacrocorax serdicensis (Late Miocene of Hrabarsko, Bulgaria)
• Phalacrocorax femoralis (Modelo Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of WC North America) - formerly Miocorax
• Phalacrocorax sp. (Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of Lee Creek Mine, USA)
• Phalacrocorax longipes (Late Miocene - Early Pliocene of the Ukraine) - formerly Pliocarbo
• Phalacrocorax goletensis (Early Pliocene ?-? Early Pleistocene of Mexico)
• Phalacrocorax wetmorei (Bone Valley Early Pliocene of Florida)
• Phalacrocorax sp. (Bone Valley Early Pliocene of Polk County, Florida, USA)
• Phalacrocorax leptopus (Juntura Early/Middle Pliocene of Juntura, Malheur County, Oregon, USA)
• Phalacrocorax idahensis (Middle Pliocene ?-? Pleistocene of Idaho, USA)
• Phalacrocorax destefanii[verification needed] (Late Pliocene of Italy) - formerly Paracorax
• Phalacrocorax filyawi (Pinecrest Late Pliocene of Florida, USA) - may be P. idahensis
• Phalacrocorax kumeyaay (San Diego Late Pliocene of California)
• Phalacrocorax macer (Late Pliocene of Idaho, USA)
• Phalacrocorax mongoliensis (Late Pliocene of W Mongolia)
• Phalacrocorax rogersi (Late Pliocene -? Early Pleistocene of California, USA)
• Phalacrocorax kennelli (San Diego Pliocene of California)
• Phalacrocorax sp. "Wildhalm"[verification needed] (Pliocene) - may be same as P. longipes
• Phalacrocorax chapalensis (Late Pliocene/Early Pleistocene of Jalisco, Mexico
• Phalacrocorax gregorii (Late Pleistocene of Australia) - possibly not a valid species
• Phalacrocorax vetustus (Late Pleistocene of Australia) - formerly Australocorax, possibly not a valid species
• Phalacrocorax reliquus
• Phalacrocorax sp. (Sarasota County, Florida) - may be P. filawyi/idahensis
The former "Phalacrocorax" (or "Oligocorax") mediterraneus is now considered to belong to the bathornithid Paracrax antiqua. "P." subvolans was actually a darter (Anhinga).
Cormorant fishing

A Chinese fisherman with his two cormorants

Japanese man displaying ancient cormorant night fishing technique.
Main article: Cormorant fishing
Humans have historically exploited cormorants' fishing skills, in China, Japan, and Macedonia, where they have been trained by fishermen. A snare is tied near the base of the bird's throat, which allows the bird only to swallow small fish. When the bird captures and tries to swallow a large fish, the fish is caught in the bird's throat. When the bird returns to the fisherman's raft, the fisherman helps the bird to remove the fish from its throat. The method is not as common today, since more efficient methods of catching fish have been developed.
In Japan, cormorant fishing is called ukai (??). Traditional forms of ukai can be seen on the Nagara River in the city of Gifu, Gifu Prefecture, where cormorant fishing has continued uninterrupted for 1300 years, or in the city of Inuyama, Aichi. In Guilin, China, cormorant birds are famous for fishing on the shallow Lijiang River.
In Gifu, the Japanese Cormorant (P. capillatus) is used; Chinese fishermen often employ Great Cormorants (P. carbo).
Cormorants in human culture

Moche Cormorant. Larco Museum Collection Lima, Peru.
• The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped nature. They placed emphasis on animals and even depicted cormorants in their art.
• Cormorants feature quite commonly in heraldry and medieval ornamentation, usually in their "wing-drying" pose, which was seen as representing the Christian cross. For example, the Norwegian municipalities of Røst, Loppa and Skjervøy have cormorants in their coat-of-arms. The species depicted in heraldry is most likely to be the Great Cormorant, the most familiar species in Europe.
• In 1853, a woman wearing a dress made of cormorant feathers was found on San Nicolas Island, off the southern coast of California. She had sewn the feather dress together using whale sinews. She is known as the Lone Woman of San Nicolas and was later baptized "Juana Maria" (her original name is lost). The woman had lived alone on the island for 18 years before being rescued.
• Christopher Isherwood in his comic verse The Common Cormorant was evidently unclear on the differences between cormorants and shags, and his information about the birds' nesting habits should not be relied on either
• In addition to those mentioned above, the bird has inspired numerous writers, including Amy Clampitt, who wrote a poem called "The Cormorant in its Element". Which species she was referring to is not obvious, since all members of the family share the characteristic behavioural and morphological features that the poem celebrates. The combination of "slim head [...] vermilion-strapped" and "big black feet" perhaps points at the Pelagic Cormorant, which is the only species occurring in the temperate U.S. with these features.
• The cormorant is mentioned in Leviticus 11:17, Deuteronomy 14:17, Isiah 34:11 as an "abomination" of birds not to be eaten, containing the Lord's vengeance, and Zephaniah 2:14, as the desolation resulting from that vengeance.
• The cormorant as a symbol of deception and greed is described in Milton's Paradise Lost, sitting on the Tree of Life, as an image of Satan entering Paradise in disguise before tempting Eve.
• There is a cormorant portrayed in the first of the fictional paintings by Jane Eyre in Charlotte Bronte's novel, representing Blanche Ingram.
• The mythical Liver Bird symbol of Liverpool is commonly thought to be a cross between an eagle and a comorant

Cotton Pygmy Goose
Cotton Pygmy Goose

Male (behind), and female, race albipennis
Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)[1]
Scientific classification
Binomial name
Nettapus coromandelianus
Gmelin, 1789
• N. c. coromandelianus
(Lesser Cotton Pygmy Goose)
• N. c. albipennis
(Greater Cotton Pygmy Goose)

The Cotton Pygmy Goose or the Cotton Teal,Nettapus coromandelianus is a small perching duck which breeds in India, Pakistan, southeast Asia and south to northern Australia. It is locally known as Girri, Girria, Girja (Hindi); Gurgura (Etawah); Bali hans (Bengal); Bhullia hans (Bangladesh); Dandana (Orissa); Ade, Atla (Ratnagiri); Naher, Keeke, Chuwa (Nowgong, Assam); Baher, Kararhi (Sind, Pakistan).


Females resting with a Whiskered Tern
Small examples are the smallest waterfowl on earth, at as little as 160 g (5.5 oz) and 26 cm (10.5 in). White predominates in this bird's plumage. Bill short, deep at base, and goose-like.
Male in breeding plumage is glossy blackish green crown, with white head, neck, and underparts; a prominent black collar and white wing-bar. Rounded head and short legs. In flight, the wings are green with a white band, making the male conspicuous even amongst the huge flying flocks of the Lesser Whistling Duck, which share the habitat. Female paler, without either black collar and only a narrow or nonexistent strip of white wing-bar. In non-breeding plumage (eclipse) male resembles female except for his white wing-bar. Flocks on water bodies (jheels), etc.
Call: A peculiar clucking, uttered in flight
It is largely resident, apart from dispersion in the wet season, but Chinese birds winter further south. It nests in tree holes, laying 8-15 eggs.
This is an abundant species in Asia, although the slightly larger Australian race appears to be declining in numbers.
Found on all still freshwater lakes (jheels), rain-filled ditches, inundated paddy fields, irrigation tanks, etc. Becomes very tame on village tanks wherever it is unmolested and has become inured to human proximity. Swift on the wing, and can dive creditably on occasion.
Chiefly seeds and vegetable matter, especially water lilies; also insects, crustaceans, etc.
Season- July to September (SW. monsoon). Nest- a natural hollow in a tree-trunk standing in or near water, sometimes lined with grass, rubbish and feathers. Eggs- 6 to 12, ivory white

Fossil range: Early Miocene - Recent

Male Oriental Darter
Scientific classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Infraclass: Neoaves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Suborder: Sulae
Family: Anhingidae
Reichenbach, 1849
Genus: Anhinga
Brisson, 1760
Anhinga anhinga
Anhinga melanogaster
Anhinga rufa
Anhinga novaehollandiae
(but see article text)

The darters or snake-birds are birds in the family Anhingidae. There are four living species, one of which is near-threatened. The darters are frequently referred to as snake-birds because of their long thin neck, which gives a snake-like appearance when they swim with their bodies submerged.
The darters are large birds with sexually dimorphic plumage. The males have black and dark brown plumage, an erectile crest on the nape and a larger bill than the female. The females have a much paler plumage especially on the neck and underparts. Both have grey stippling on long scapulars and upper wing coverts. The sharply pointed bill has serrated edges. The darters have completely webbed feet, and their legs are short and set far back on the body. Their plumage is somewhat permeable, like that of cormorants, and they spread their wings to dry after diving. Vocalizations include a clicking or rattling when flying or perching. During breeding adults sometimes have caw or hissing calls.
Darters are circum-equatorial, tropical or subtropical. They inhabit either fresh or brackish water and can be found in lakes, rivers, marshes, swamps, estuaries, bays, lagoons and mangrove swamps. They tend to gather in flocks sometimes up to about 100 birds but are highly territorial when breeding. Most are sedentary and do not migrate, however the populations at extreme distributions may migrate. The Oriental Darter is near-threatened species.Habitat destruction along with other human interferences is among the main reasons for a declining population.
Food and feeding
Darters feed mainly on fish. They use their sharply pointed bill to spear their prey when they dive; this is how they get the name darter. Their ventral keel is present on the 5-7 vertebrae which allows for muscles to attach so that they are able to project their bill forward like a spear. They also eat amphibians such as frogs and newts, reptiles such as snakes and turtles and invertebrates such as insects, shrimp and mollusks. These birds use their feet to move underwater and quietly stalk and ambush their prey. They then stab the prey, such as a fish, and bring them to the surface where they toss it into the air and catch and swallow it.


Anhinga melanogaster "snake birds" nesting
The darters are monogamous and pair bond during the breeding season. There are many different types of displays used for mating including male displays to attract the female, greeting displays between the male and female and pair bonding displays between the pairs. Also during breeding, their small gular sac changes from pink or yellow to black and the bare facial skin turns to turquoise from a yellow or yellow-green color. They usually breed in colonies.
Breeding can be seasonal or year round and varies by geographic range. The nests are made of twigs and are built in trees or reeds, often near water. The clutch size is two to six eggs (usually about 4) of a pale green color and the eggs are incubated for 25 to 30 days. The eggs hatch asynchronously. Bi-parental care is given and the young are considered altricial. They reach sexual maturity by about 2 years. These birds generally live to around 9 years.

Systematics and evolution

Female Oriental Darter
This family is very closely related to the other families in the Pelecaniformes suborder Sulae, i.e. the cormorants and shags and the gannets and boobies. Cormorants and anhingas are extremely similar as regards their body and leg skeletons, showing that they are closely related. In fact, several anhinga fossils were initially believed to be cormorants or shags (see below for examples).
There are four living species of darters recognized, all in the genus Anhinga, although the Old World ones are often lumped together as subspecies of A. melanogaster:
• Anhinga, Anhinga anhinga
• Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster
• African Darter, Anhinga rufa
• Australian Darter, Anhinga novaehollandiae
Extinct "species" from Mauritius and Australia known only from bones were described as Anhinga nana ("Mauritian Darter") and Anhinga parva, but they were misidentifications of bones of the Long-tailed Cormorant and the Little Pied Cormorant, respectively. In the former case, however, they might belong to an extinct subspecies which would have to be called Phalacrocorax africanus nanus (Mauritian Cormorant) - quite ironically, as nanus means "dwarf" and the remains are larger than those of the geographically closest population of the Long-tailed Cormorant.
The darters are known since the Early Miocene. The diversity was highest in the Americas; a number of prehistoric species and genera known only from fossils have been described. The aptly named Macranhinga, Meganhinga and Giganhinga represent very large and at least partly flightless forms:
• Meganhinga (Early Miocene of Chile)
• Macranhinga (Middle/Late Miocene -? Early Pliocene of SC South America)
• Giganhinga (Late Pliocene/Early Pleistocene of Uruguay)
• Anhingidae gen. et sp. indet. (Middle/Late Miocene of Paraná, Argentina)
Prehistoric members of Anhinga are:
• Anhinga subvolans (Early Miocene of Thomas Farm, USA) - formerly in Phalacrocorax
• Anhinga cf. grandis (Middle Miocene of Colombia -? Late Pliocene of SC South America)
• Anhinga sp. (Sajóvölgyi Middle Miocene of Mátraszõlõs, Hungary)
• Anhinga fraileyi (Late Miocene -? Early Pliocene of S South America)
• Anhinga minuta (Solimões Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of SC South America)
• Anhinga pannonica (Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of Tatarus-Brusturi, Hungary ?and Tunisia, East Africa, Pakistan and Thailand - ?Sahabi Early Pliocene of Libya)
• Anhinga grandis (Late Miocene - Kimball Late Pliocene of USA)
• Anhinga malagurala (Allingham Early Pliocene of Charters Towers, Australia)
• Anhinga sp. (Early Pliocene of Bone Valley, USA)
• Anhinga hadarensis (Late Pliocene/Early Pleistocene of E Africa)
• Anhinga sp. (Early Pleistocene of Coleman, USA) - may be same as Anhinga sp. "Bone Valley"
The Pleistocene Anhinga laticeps is a misidentified Australian Darter; it might have been a paleosubspecies of the last ice age.

Indian Pond Heron

In non-breeding plumage

Breeding plumage

Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Ardeola
Species: A. grayii
Binomial name
Ardeola grayii
(Sykes, 1832)
Ardeola leucoptera
The Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii) is a small heron. It is of Old World origins, breeding in southern Iran and east to India, Burma and Sri Lanka.
• 1 Description
• 2 Ecology
• 3 References
• 4 =Gallery

In Breeding plumage with red legs in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
They appear stocky with a short neck, short thick bill and buff-brown back. In summer, adults have long neck feathers. Its appearance is transformed from their dull colours when they take to flight, when the white of the wings makes them very prominent. It is very similar to the Squacco Heron, Ardeola ralloides, but is darker-backed. To the east of its range, it is replaced by the Chinese Pond Heron, Ardeola bacchus.
During the breeding season, there are records of individuals with red legs. The numbers do not suggest that this is a normal change for adults during the breeding season and some have suggested the possibility of it being genetic variants.[2][3][4][5]
Erythristic plumage has been noted.[6] The race phillipsi has been suggested for the populations found in the Maldives, however this is not always recognized.[7]
They are very silent but may give a harsh croak when flushed or near their nests.[7]
This bird was first described by Colonel W. H. Sykes in 1832 and given its scientific name in honour of John Edward Gray.
The Indian Pond Heron's feeding habitat is marshy wetlands. They usually feed at the edge of ponds but make extensive use of floating vegetation such as Water hyacinth to access deeper water. They may also on occasion swim on water or fish from air

Pair at Nest in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
They nest in small colonies, often with other wading birds, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs. 3-5 eggs are laid.[11] These herons feed on insects (including dragonflies[12]), fish (Barilius noted as important in a study in Chandigarh) and amphibians.[13]
Nocturnal movements of Pond Herons have been noted along the coast near Chennai.[14]
They are very common in India, and they can be approached very close before they are flushed. They may also forage at garbage heaps.
They have few predators and injured birds may be taken by birds of prey.[15]
An arbovirus "Balagodu", trematodes and several other parasites have been isolated from the species.[16][17][18][19][20] Antibodies to Japanese Encephalitis/West Nile Virus has been detected in Pond Herons and Cattle Egrets from southern India.[21] Heavy metal pollution appears to be indicated particularly in the tail feathers.[22]
Karyology studies indicate that Pond Herons have 68 chromosomes


Indian shag or Cormorant
Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Phalacrocoracidae
Genus: Phalacrocorax
Species: P. fuscicollis
Binomial name
Phalacrocorax fuscicollis
Stephens, 1826

In non-breeding plumage
The Indian Cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis) is a member of the cormorant family of seabirds. It breeds in tropical Asia from Oman, Yemen, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka into Southeast Asia. It is resident but undertakes some seasonal movements.
This is a common and widespread bird species, which breeds in freshwater wetlands. 3-6 eggs are laid in a nest in a tree.
This is a smallish, slender, cormorant with a triangular head profile. It is 63 cm in length. Indian Cormorant is mainly black in the breeding season, with white neck plumes and a whitish throat. The wing coverts are silvery and it has a longish tail.
This species can be separated from the similar looking Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger) by its slender bill, more peaked appearance to its head and lack of the glossy black plumage of the smaller bird. It is also more gregarious and is often found in larger bodies of water and rivers.
Sexes are similar, but non-breeding adults and juveniles are browner and lack the neck plumes.
The Indian Cormorant can dive to considerable depths, but usually feeds in shallow water. It frequently brings prey to the surface. A wide variety of fish are taken.


Intermediate Egret

Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes (disputed)
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Ardea
Species: A. intermedia
Binomial name
Ardea intermedia
Wagler, 1827
Egretta intermedia
Mesophoyx intermedia

In Breeding plumage
The Intermediate Egret or Median, or Yellow-billed, Egret, (Ardea intermedia) is a medium-sized heron. It is a resident breeder from east Africa across tropical southern Asia to Australia. It often nests in colonies with other herons, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs. Two to five eggs are laid, the clutch size varying with region. This species, as its scientific name implies, is intermediate in size between the Great Egret and smaller white egrets like the Little Egret and Cattle Egret, though nearer to Little than Great. It is about 90 cm tall with all-white plumage, generally dark legs and a thickish yellow bill. Breeding birds may have a reddish or black bill, greenish yellow gape skin, loose filamentous plumes on their breast and back, and dull yellow or pink on their upper legs (regional variations). The sexes are similar.

The Intermediate Egret stalks its prey methodically in shallow coastal or fresh water, including flooded fields. It eats fish, crustaceans and insects.
Difference from Great Egret

The non-breeding colours are similar, but the Intermediate is smaller, with neck length a little less than body length, a slightly domed head, and a shorter, thicker bill. The Great Egret has a noticeable kink near the middle of its neck, and the top of its longer bill nearly aligns with the flat top of its head. Close up, the bare skin of the Great Egret's gape line extends in a dagger shape behind the eye, while the Intermediate's is less pointed and ends below the eye. The Intermediate tends to stalk upright with neck extended forward. The Great is more patient, often adopting a sideways-leaning "one-eyed" stance.
Difference from Little Egret
Little Egrets have yellow-soled feet. They often run after fish in shallow water. Breeding birds have long nuptial plumes on the back of their heads.



Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Jacanidae
Stejneger, 1885
• Microparra
• Actophilornis
• Irediparra
• Hydrophasianus
• Metopidius
• Jacana
The jacanas or jaçanas (sometimes referred to as Jesus birds) are a group of tropical waders in the family Jacanidae. They are found worldwide within the tropical zone. See Etymology below for proper pronunciation.
They are identifiable by their huge feet and claws which enable them to walk on floating vegetation in the shallow lakes that are their preferred habitat. They have sharp bills and rounded wings, and many species also have wattles on their foreheads
The females are larger than the males; the latter, as in some other wader families like the phalaropes take responsibility for incubation, and some species (notably the Northern Jacana) are polyandrous. However, adults of both sexes look identical, as with most shorebirds. They construct relatively flimsy nests on floating vegetation, and lay eggs with dark irregular lines on their shells, providing camouflage amongst water weeds
Its diet consists of insects and other invertebrates picked from the floating vegetation or the water’s surface.
Most species are sedentary, but the Pheasant-tailed Jacana migrates from the north of its range into peninsular India and southeast Asia.
Jacana is Linnæus' scientific Latin misspelling of the Brazilian Portuguese jaçanã (from a Tupi name of the bird), whose pronunciation is approximately [žáN]. The best English-language representation of this might be "zhah-sah-NAH" or the more flowing "zhah-SAH-nah".

• Genus: Microparra
o Lesser Jacana - Microparra capensis
• Genus: Actophilornis
o African Jacana - Actophilornis africana
o Madagascar Jacana - Actophilornis albinucha
• Genus: Irediparra
o Comb-crested Jacana - Irediparra gallinacea
• Genus: Hydrophasianus
o Pheasant-tailed Jacana - Hydrophasianus chirurgus
• Genus: Metopidius
o Bronze-winged Jacana - Metopidius indicus
• Genus: Jacana
o Northern Jacana - Jacana spinosa
o Wattled Jacana - Jacana jacana
Little Cormorant

Conservation status
.Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Phalacrocoracidae
Genus: Phalacrocorax
Species: P. niger
Binomial name
Phalacrocorax niger
Vieillot, 1817


Drying its wings.
The Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger) is a member of the cormorant family of seabirds. It breeds in tropical south Asia from southern Pakistan through India and Sri Lanka east to Indonesia. It is resident but undertakes some limited seasonal movements.
Originally described by French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1817, this is a common and widespread bird species. It breeds in freshwater wetlands and on coasts. 3-5 eggs are laid in a nest in a tree or long grass.
This is a small cormorant, 55 cm in length. Its rectangular head profile and short bill are distinctions from the somewhat larger Indian Cormorant. Little Cormorant is mainly glossy black in the breeding season, with white head plumes and a whitish throat. The wing coverts are silvery, and it has a longish tail.
The sexes are similar, but non-breeding adults and juveniles are browner and lack the head plumes.
The Little Cormorant can dive to considerable depths, but usually feeds in shallow water. It frequently brings prey to the surface. A wide variety of fish are taken


Little Egret

Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes (disputed)
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Egretta
Species: E. garzetta
Binomial name
Egretta garzetta
Linnaeus, 1766

The Little Egret, Egretta garzetta is a small white heron. It is the Old World counterpart to the very similar New World Snowy Egret.
There are at least two subspecies of Little Egret. The nominate subspecies E. g. garzetta occurs in Europe, Africa and Asia. E. g. nigripes breeds in Indonesia and Australasia. Those in Australia are sometimes thought to represent a third subspecies E. g. immaculata.
Several other egret taxa have at times been classified as subspecies of the Little Egret in the past but are now regarded as separate species. The Western Reef-Egret, Egretta gularis occurs on the coastline of West Africa (race gularis) and from the Red Sea to India (race schistacea). The Dimorphic Egret, Egretta (garzetta/gularis) dimorpha is found in East Africa, Madagascar, the Comoros and the Aldabra Islands.

E. g. garzetta - in breeding plumage

E. g. garzetta - in flight
Little Egret stands on a leaf in an aviary

Little Egret (Non-breeding plumage)stalking
The adult Little Egret is 55–65 cm long with an 88–106 cm wingspan. It weighs 350–550 grams. Its plumage is all white. It has long black legs with yellow feet and a slim black bill. In the breeding season, the adult has two long nape plumes and gauzy plumes on the back and breast. The bare skin between the bill and eyes becomes red or blue. Juveniles are similar to non-breeding adults but have duller legs and feet. The subspecies garzetta has yellow feet and a bare patch of grey-green skin between the bill and eyes, whereas nigripes has yellow skin between the bill and eye and blackish feet.
Little Egrets are mostly silent but make various croaking and bubbling calls at their breeding colonies and produce a harsh alarm call when disturbed.
Distribution and habitat
Its original breeding distribution was large inland wetlands and coastal wetlands in warm temperate parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.
In warmer locations, most birds are permanent residents; northern populations, including many European birds, migrate to Africa and southern Asia. They may also wander north after the breeding season, which presumably has led to this egret's range expansion.
Colonization of the New World
The Little Egret has now started to colonize the New World. The first record there was on Barbados in April 1954. It began breeding on the island in 1994. Birds are seen with increasing regularity and have occurred from Surinam and Brazil in the south to Newfoundland and Quebec in the north. Birds on the east coast of North America are thought to have moved north with Snowy Egrets from the Caribbean.
Northward spread in Europe
Until the 1950s, the Little Egret was restricted to southern Europe. Over the next few decades it became increasingly common in western France and later on the north coast. It bred in the Netherlands in 1979 with further breeding in the 1990s.
In Great Britain it was rare until the late twentieth century and almost certainly did not breed. In contrast, it has for just over a decade now become a regular breeding species and is commonly sighted, often in large numbers at favoured coastal sites. The first breeding record is generally accepted as having been on Brownsea Island in Dorset in 1996, although it has been claimed that the species bred in Sussex in the 1970s. There are now several colonies across southern England and the species bred in Wales for the first time in 2002.
In Ireland the species bred for the first time in 1997 at a site in County Cork.
The Little Egret nests in colonies, often with other wading birds, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs or in a reedbed or bamboo grove. In some locations such as the Cape Verde Islands, the species nests on cliffs. Pairs defend a small breeding territory, usually extending around 3–4 m from the nest. The three to five eggs are incubated by both adults for 21–25 days to hatching. They are oval in shape and have a pale, non-glossy, blue-green colour. The young birds are covered in white down feathers, are cared for by both parents and fledge after 40 to 45 days.

E. g. garzetta in Breeding plumage-actively catching prey
This egret stalks its prey in shallow water, often running with raised wings or shuffling its feet. It may also stand still and wait to ambush prey. It eats a variety of small animals including fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and insects.

At one time, the plumes of the Little Egret and other egrets were in demand for decorating hats. They had been used for this purpose since at least the 17th century but in the 19th century it became a major craze and the number of egret skins passing through dealers reached into the millions. Egret farms were set up where the birds could be plucked without being killed but most of the supply was obtained by hunting which reduced the population of the species to dangerously low levels (stimulating the establishment of Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in 1889). Now conservation laws protect this species, and the population has rebounded strongly.
The Little Egret is not listed as a threatened species on the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. However, it status varies from state to state within Australia. For example:
• The Little Egret subspecies E. g. nigripes is listed as threatened on the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988).[4] Under this Act, an Action Statement for the recovery and future management of this species has been prepared
• On the 2007 advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria, the Little Egret (E. g. nigripes) is listed as endangered

Monarch flycatcher
.Mascarene Paradise-flycatcher
Terpsiphone bourbonnensis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Family: Monarchidae
See text
The monarch flycatchers, Monarchidae, are a family of passerine birds. Well-known forms included here are boatbills, monarch flycatchers, shrikebills, paradise-flycatchers, and the magpie-larks.
Monarchids are small songbirds with long tails. They are insectivorous birds, living in forest or woodland across sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia, Australasia, and a number of Pacific islands. Only a few species migrate. Many species decorate their cup-shaped nests with lichen.
Morphology and description
The monarch flycatchers are a diverse family of passerine birds that are generally arboreal (with the exception of the magpie-larks). They are mostly slim birds and possess broad bills. The bills of some species are quite large; the boatbills of the genus Machaerirhynchus are very broad and flat, and the heavy-set bills of the shrikebills are used to probe dead wood and leaves. The plumage of the family ranges from sombre, like the almost monochrome Black Monarch, to spectacular, like the Golden Monarch. The tails are generally long and spectacularly so in the paradise-flycatchers in the genus Terpsiphone. Sexual dimorphism in plumage can be subtle, as in the Paperbark Flycatcher, where the female is identical to the male except for a slight buff on he throat; striking, as in the Chuuk Monarch where the male almost entirely white and the female entirely black; or non-existent, as in the Tahiti Monarch. In some species, for example the Madagascar Paradise-flycatcher, the males have two or more colour morphs.
Distribution, habitat and movements

The Satin Flycatcher is fully migratory, breeding in southern Australia and migrating to northern Australia and New Guinea.

The monarch flycatchers have an mostly Old World distribution. In the western end of their range they are distributed through sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar and the islands of the tropical Indian Ocean. They also occur in South and Southeastern Asia, north to Japan, down to New Guinea and most of Australia. The family has managed to reach many Pacific islands, and several endemic genera occur across Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia as far as Hawaii and the Marquesas.

The paradise-flycatchers of the genus Terpsiphone has the widest distribution of any of the monarch flycatchers, ranging almost all of sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, the Mascarenes and Seychelles, South, East and Southeastern Asia as far as Korea, Afghanistan, the Philippines and the Lesser Sundas. The other paradise-flycatcher genus, Trochocercus is restricted to Africa. The other exclusively Asian genus is the Hypothymis monarchs. The remaining genera are predominately found in the Austro-Papuan and Oceania regions. A few monotypic genera are restricted to Pacific island; these include the Silktail (Lamprolia) in Fiji, the Chuuk Monarch (Metabolus) in the Micronesian island of Chuuk, the Hawaiian Elepaio (Chasiempis) and the Buff-bellied Monarch (Neolalage) which is restricted to the islands of Vanuatu. Other Pacific genera are the shrikebills (Clytorhynchus), the Mayrornis monarchs, both of which are found in Melanesia and west Polynesia, and the Pomarea monarchs which are exclusively Polynesian in origin.

The majority of the family is found in forest and woodland habitats. Species that live in more open woodlands tend to live in the higher levels of the trees but, in denser forest, live in the middle and lower levels. Other habitats used by monarch flycatchers include savannah and mangroves, and the terrestrial Magpie-lark occurs in most Australian habitats except the driest deserts.

While the majority of monarch-flycatchers are resident, a few species are partially migratory and one, the Satin Flycatcher, is fully migratory, although the Japanese Paradise-flycatcher is almost entirely migratory. The Asian Paradise-flycatcher is migratory over the northern parts of its range and sedentary in the tropics, and the African Paradise-flycatcher makes a series of poorly understood intra-African migratory movements.

Female Pale-blue Monarch on a nest constructed on a fork in a tree.

The monarch-flycatchers are generally monogamous, with the pair bonds ranging from just a single season (as in the African Paradise-flycatcher) to life (the Elepaio). Only three species are known to engage in cooperative breeding; but many species are as yet unstudied. They are generally territorial, defending territories that are around 2 ha in size, but a few species may cluster their nesting sites closely together. Nesting sites may also be chosen close to aggressive species, for example Leaden Flycatchers nests may be located near the nests of the aggressive Noisy Friarbird. The nests are in turn often aggressively defended by monarch flycatchers. In all species the nest is a open cup on a branch, fork or twig. In some species the nests can be highly conspicuous.

Many of the approximately 140 species making up the family were previously assigned to other groups, largely on the basis of general morphology or behaviour. The Magpie-lark, for example, was assigned to the same family as the White-winged Chough, since both build unusual nests from mud rather than vegetable matter. The Australasian fantails were thought to be allied with the fantails of the northern hemisphere (they have a similar diet and behaviour), and so on.

With the new insights generated by the DNA-DNA hybridisation studies of Sibley and his co-workers toward the end of the 20th century, however, it became clear that these apparently unrelated birds were all descended from a common ancestor: the same crow-like ancestor that gave rise to the drongos. On that basis they have been included as a subfamily of the Dicruridae, along with the fantails, although Christidis and Boles have more recently treated it at familial rank as Monarchidae.

More recently, the grouping has been refined somewhat as the original concept of Corvida has proven paraphyletic. The narrower 'Core corvine' group now comprises the crows and ravens, shrikes, birds of paradise, fantails, monarch flycatchers, drongos and mudnest builders.

The Monarchs are small to medium-sized insectivorous passerines, many of which hunt by flycatching.

Taxonomic list of Monarchidae

Based on del Hoyo et al (2006)

• Genus Hypothymis (4 species)
• Genus Eutrichomyias – Cerulean Paradise-flycatcher
• Genus Trochocercus
o Blue-headed Crested Flycatcher, Trochocercus nitens
o African Crested Flycatcher, Trochocercus cyanomelas
• Genus Terpsiphone – typical paradise-flycatchers (14 species)
• Genus Chasiempis – ?Elepaio
• Genus Pomarea
o Eiao Monarch, Pomarea fluxa – extinct (late 1970s). Formerly included in P. mendozae
o Nuku Hiva Monarch, Pomarea nukuhivae – extinct (20th century). Formerly included in P. iphis
o Rarotonga Monarch, Pomarea dimidiata
o Tahiti Monarch,Pomarea nigra
o Marquesas Monarch, Pomarea mendozae
? Hiva Oa Monarch, Pomarea mendozae mendozae – extinct (late 1970s)
o Ua Pou Monarch, Pomarea mira – extinct (c. 1986). Formerly included in P. mendozae
o Maupiti Monarch, Pomarea pomarea – extinct (mid-19th century)
o Iphis Monarch, Pomarea iphis
o Fatuhiva Monarch, Pomarea whitneyi
• Genus Mayrornis (3 species)
• Genus Neolalage (1 species)
• Genus Clytorhynchus, Shrikebills (5 species)
• Genus Metabolus (1 species)
• Genus Monarcha

Black-faced Monarch, Monarcha melanopsis
o Black Monarch, Monarcha axillaris
o Rufous Monarch, Monarcha rubiensis
o Island Monarch, Monarcha cinerascens
o Black-faced Monarch, Monarcha melanopsis
o Black-winged Monarch, Monarcha frater
o Bougainville Monarch, Monarcha erythrostictus
o Chestnut-bellied Monarch, Monarcha castaneiventris
o White-capped Monarch, Monarcha richardsii
o White-eared Monarch, Monarcha leucotis
o White-naped Monarch, Monarcha pileatus
o Loetoe Monarch, Monarcha castus
o Spot-winged Monarch, Monarcha guttulus
o Black-bibbed Monarch, Monarcha mundus
o Flores Monarch, Monarcha sacerdotum
o Black-chinned Monarch, Monarcha boanensis
o Spectacled Monarch, Monarcha trivirgatus
o White-tailed Monarch, Monarcha leucurus
o White-tipped Monarch, Monarcha everetti
o Black-tipped Monarch, Monarcha loricatus
o Black-backed Monarch, Monarcha julianae
o Biak Monarch, Monarcha brehmii
o Hooded Monarch, Monarcha manadensis
o Manus Monarch, Monarcha infelix
o White-breasted Monarch, Monarcha menckei
o Black-tailed Monarch, Monarcha verticalis
o Black-and-white Monarch, Monarcha barbatus
o Kulambangra Monarch, Monarcha browni
o White-collared Monarch, Monarcha viduus
o Yap Monarch, Monarcha godeffroyi
o Tinian Monarch, Monarcha takatsukasae
o Golden Monarch, Monarcha chrysomela
• Genus Arses (4 species)
• Genus Myiagra
o Guam Flycatcher, Myiagra freycineti – extinct (1983)
o Oceanic Flycatcher, Myiagra oceanica
o Palau Flycatcher, Myiagra erythrops
o Pohnpei Flycatcher, Myiagra pluto
o Moluccan Flycatcher, Myiagra galeata
o Biak Flycatcher, Myiagra atra
o Leaden Flycatcher, Myiagra rubecula
o Steel-blue Flycatcher, Myiagra ferrocyanea

Broad-billed Flycatcher, Myiagra ruficollis

o Ochre-headed Flycatcher, Myiagra cervinicauda
o Melanesian Flycatcher, Myiagra caledonica
o Vanikoro Flycatcher, Myiagra vanikorensis
o Samoan Flycatcher, Myiagra albiventris
o Blue-crested Flycatcher, Myiagra azureocapilla
o Broad-billed Flycatcher, Myiagra ruficollis
o Satin Flycatcher, Myiagra cyanoleuca
o Shining Flycatcher, Myiagra alecto
o Dull Flycatcher, Myiagra hebetior
o Paperbark Flycatcher, Myiagra nana
o Restless Flycatcher, Myiagra inquieta
• Genus Lamprolia – Silktail (Taxonomic position uncertain)
• Genus Machaerirhynchus – boatbills (2 species – Taxonomic position uncertain)
• Genus Elminia
o African Blue Flycatcher, Elminia longicauda
o White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Elminia albicauda
o Dusky Crested Flycatcher, Elminia nigromitrata
o White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Elminia albiventris
o White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Elminia albonotata
• Genus Erythrocercus – probably belongs to the Cettiidae
o Yellow Flycatcher, Erythrocercus holochlorus
o Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Erythrocercus mccallii
o Livingstone's Flycatcher, Erythrocercus livingstonei
• Genus Grallina Magpie-larks (2 species)


Night Heron


Purple Heron

Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Ardea
Species: A. purpurea
Binomial name
Ardea purpurea
(Linnaeus, 1766)

The Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) is a wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, breeding in Africa, central and southern Europe, and southern and eastern Asia. The European populations are migratory, wintering in tropical Africa; the more northerly Asian populations also migrate further south within Asia. It is a rare but regular wanderer north of its breeding range.

Ardea purpurea manilensis
The Purple Heron is a large bird, 80-90 cm tall, with a 120-150 cm wingspan, but slender for its size, weighing only 0.5-1.3 kg. It is somewhat smaller than the Grey Heron, from which it can be distinguishes by its darker reddish-brown plumage, and, in adults, darker grey back. It has a narrower yellow bill, which is brighter in breeding adults.

There are three or four subspecies:
• Ardea purpurea purpurea Linnaeus, 1766. Africa, Europe north to the Netherlands, and southwestern Asia east to Kazakhstan.
• Ardea purpurea bournei (de Naurois, 1966). Cape Verde Islands (included in purpurea by some authors, but treated as a distinct species Ardea bournei by some others).
• Ardea purpurea madagascariensis Oort, 1910. Madagascar.
• Ardea purpurea manilensis Meyen, 1834. Asia from Pakistan east to the Philippines and north to Primorsky Krai, Russia.

The Purple Heron breeds in colonies in reed beds or trees close to large lakes or other extensive wetlands. It builds a bulky stick nest.
It feeds in shallow water, spearing fish, frogs or insects with its long, sharp bill. It will often wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim. It tends to keep within reedbeds more than the Grey Heron, and is often inconspicuous, despite its size.

In flight it has a slow flight, with its neck retracted. This is characteristic of herons and bitterns, and distinguishes them from storks, cranes and spoonbills, which extend their necks. The long neck of Purple Heron looks particularly snake-like, with more of an S-shape in flight. The call is a loud croaking "krek".
The Purple Heron is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Stork-billed Kingfisher

Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Halcyonidae
Genus: Pelargopsis
Species: P. capensis
Binomial name
Pelargopsis capensis
(Linnaeus, 1766)
Halcyon capensis
The Stork-billed Kingfisher, Pelargopsis capensis (formerly Halcyon capensis), is a tree kingfisher which is widely but sparsely distributed in tropical south Asia from India and Sri Lanka to Indonesia. This kingfisher is essentially resident throughout its range.

This is a very large kingfisher, 35 cm in length. The adult has a green back, blue wings and tail, and grey head. Its underparts and neck are buff. The very large bill and legs are bright red. The flight of the Stork-billed Kingfisher is laboured and flapping, but direct. Sexes are similar. There are 15 races, mostly differing in plumage detail, but P. c. gigantea of the Sulu Islands has a white head, neck and underparts. The call of this noisy kingfisher is a low and far reaching peer-por-por repeated every 5 seconds or so as well cackling ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke.
Stork-billed Kingfisher is a species of a variety of well-wooded habitats near lakes, rivers or coasts. It perches quietly whilst seeking food, and is often inconspicuous despite its size. It is territorial and will chase away eagles and other large predators. This species hunts fish, frogs, crabs, rodents and young birds.
Stork-billed Kingfisher digs its nest in a river bank, decaying tree, or a tree termite nest. A clutch of two to five round white eggs is typical.

Whiskered Tern

Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Sternidae
Genus: Chlidonias
Species: C. hybridus
Binomial name
Chlidonias hybridus
(Pallas, 1811)
• C. h. hybridus
(Eurasian Whiskered Tern)
• C. h. delalandii
(African Whiskered Tern)
• C. h. javanicus
(Australasian Whiskered Tern)

The Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus) is a seabird of the tern family Sternidae. This bird has a number of geographical races, differing mainly in size and minor plumage details.
C. h. hybridus breeds in warmer parts of Europe and Asia. The smaller-billed and darker C. h. delalandii is found in east and south Africa, and the paler C. h. javanicus from Java to Australia.
The tropical forms are resident, but European and Asian birds winter south to Africa and southern Asia.
This species breeds in colonies on inland marshes, sometimes amongst Black-headed Gulls, which provide some protection. The scientific name arises from the fact that this, the largest marsh tern, show similarities in appearance to both the white Sterna terns and to Black Tern.

The size, black cap, strong bill (29-34 mm in males, 25-27 mm and stubbier in females, with a pronounced gonys) and more positive flight recall Common or Arctic Tern, but the short, forked-looking tail and dark grey breeding plumage above and below are typically marsh tern characteristics. The summer adult has white cheeks and red legs and bill. The crown is flecked with white in the juvenile, and the hindcrown is more uniformly blackish, though in the winter adult this too is flecked with white. The black ear-coverts are joined to the black of the hindcrown, and the space above is mottled with white, causing the black to appear as a C-shaped band. The sides of the neck are white; this sometimes continues across the nape. The collar is less sharply defined. All through the year the rump is pale grey. In the juvenile, the mantle (279 mm) has a variegated pattern. The feathers of the back and scapulars are dark brown, with prominent broad buff edgings and often subterminal buff bars or centers. There is usually an admixture of new gray feathers, especially on the mantle, quite early in the fall. The mantle is silvery-gray in the adult. The call is a characteristic krekk.
In winter, the forehead becomes white and the body plumage a much paler grey. Juvenile Whiskered Terns have a ginger scaly back, and otherwise look much like winter adults. The first winter plumage is intermediate between juvenile and adult winter, with patchy ginger on the back.


Dendrocygninae or whistling duck

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Dendrocygninae
Reichenbach, 1853
Genus: Dendrocygna
Swainson, 1837
• Dendrocygna arborea
• Dendrocygna arcuata
• Dendrocygna autumnalis
• Dendrocygna bicolor
• Dendrocygna eytoni
• Dendrocygna guttata
• Dendrocygna javanica
• Dendrocygna viduata
Dendrocygninae is a subfamily of the duck, goose and swan family of birds, Anatidae. In other taxonomical approaches, they are either considered a separate family Dendrocygnidae, or a tribe Dendrocygnini in the goose subfamily Anserinae (e.g. Terres & NAS, 1991).
It contains only one genus, Dendrocygna, containing eight living species, and one known from hitherto undescribed subfossils from Aitutaki, Cook Islands (Steadman, 2006). These species are the whistling ducks and they have a worldwide distribution through the tropics and subtropics. These ducks have, as their name implies, distinctive whistling calls.
The whistling ducks have long legs and necks, and are very gregarious, flying to and from night-time roosts in large flocks. Both sexes have the same plumage, and all have a hunched appearance and black underwings in flight.

• Black-billed Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna arborea
• Wandering Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna arcuata
• Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna autumnalis
• Fulvous Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna bicolor
• Plumed Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna eytoni
• Spotted Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna guttata
• Lesser Whistling Duck, or Indian Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna javanica
• White-faced Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna viduata