Thursday, February 24, 2011


The controversial cormorant is a very characteristic bird, which is seen in many places along the Danish coast and at big lakes. There are two subspecies in Denmark. There are two subspecies in Denmark, the Southern cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis) and the Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). The Southern cormorant breeds in Denmark , and the Great cormorant is a common guest in the Danish waters in the winter season.  the two subspecies are much alike , but the Great cormorant is - as its name indicates - larger and more robust.

Skarv, Helgenæs
Also out in heavy rain

                                                                          The cormorant lives in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania , Greenland and the eastern part of North America. In Denmark it breed along the fjords,  at low-watered coasts and at big lakes. The biggest colonies are at Tofte Sø in Lille Vildmose,  at the small island Vorsø in Horsens fjord and at Brændegårds sø on South Funen. In the colonies, where the bird has its nest in the trees can the size of guano be so large that the trees are killed.

It's an excellent flyer

The cormorant  has various names. The Danish name Skarv is Germanic, Old Norse is Skafr, which belongs to the Germanic word skarb, which imitates the bird's hoarse voice.  An old Danish name is Ålekragen = the Eelcrow, because it was seen swallowing rather large eels. It was also called the Water raven or the Sea raven. The English name cormorant is from German Kormoran,which comes from Latin corvus marinus
( =Sea Crow )
Hoping for fish in the park-lake

A few generations ago the cormorant was extinct as a Danish breeding bird, the fishermen regarded it as a rival, and the bird destroys the trees with its guano.In 1904 paid the Danish state shooting-prizes for cormorants, one crown for each right foot, and during 23 years were paid for 7.000 birds, mostly killed in Kattegat and the Belts. But in 1938 the cormorant began to breed in a colony at the island Langeland near the manor Tranekær, but it disappeared again in 1946. From 1949- 1956 were about 300 couple at Langeland, and upon the small island Vorsø in Horsens fjord has been a colony of ab. 500 couple since 1944. Since 1978 it has been protected and the cormorant is now common all over the country.

A killed tree!

The cormorant builds a large nest of big branches and twigs high up in hardwood-trees, there are often many nests in one tree.It lays about 3-5 eggs in May. Its food is mostly eel, herring and viviparous blenny. The cormorant is also found along the Wattensea because these three fish come in at at high tide. The cormorant swim-dives while hunting.

There were found bones of cormorant in the Stone Age kitchen middens after 5000 B.C and from Iron Age and Viking period. 

The Faroes: When the cormorant is sitting with outspread wings it is said that " it is burning salt" .

It is considered one of the best local birds for food.

Greenland. They also oinclude the cormorant in the food. the neck feathers of the breeding dress are used to decorate wall-carpets.

Greenland: If you sweep the flower with the cormorant's wings all capture disappear and there will be a great hunger.

How long a wait will there be before the fish comes?

Both at the Faroe islands and in Greenland the cormorant is called "den tungeløse" ( bird without a tongue) . This refers to a Faroe-fable about the reason why the bird has such a small tongue: The cormorant and the eider competed about having the eider-down and made a bet. The one, who could be silent all night and the next day be the first to wake up and cry  "the sun rises", it should have the eider-down.  The eider soon fell asleep, while the cormorant who knew that it was sleeping very heavily, tried to keep awake. At dawn it became so happy that it cried "now comes the sun "!  This woke the eider, who was very rested, while the cormorant fell asleep, before the sun got up. Its tongue was cut, because it could not keep its mouth shut.

According to another Faroe-fable the cormorant lost its tongue, because it told the raven, where the eider had its nest. This story was used to frighten a gossiping child.

I'll go home to the nest now.....

Flora og Fauna, bd. 2 V.J.Brøndegaard ; Skov og Naturstyrelsen ; Dansk Ornitologisk Forening. 

photo 2006-2009: grethe bachmann

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