How Do Cormorants Catch Fish?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click one, I may earn a commission at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Key Takeaways

  • Cormorants are great divers that catch fish by swimming underwater.
  • They use their hooked bills and wide mouths to swallow fish whole.
  • Some cormorants work together in groups to catch bigger fish.
  • In some cultures, cormorants are trained to catch fish for fishermen.


Have you ever seen a big, black bird diving into the water and coming back up with a fish in its mouth? If so, you likely saw a cormorant! Cormorants are good at catching fish. In fact, fishing is what they do best!

This article will teach you all about how cormorants catch fish. It will look at the different ways they hunt and get food from the water. You will learn how their bodies help them dive and swim. It will also talk about how they swallow and eat the fish. Some interesting facts about how they work together in groups are also included.

By the end, you will understand why cormorants are such excellent fishers. You will have a better idea of their fishing skills and techniques. It is amazing to see cormorants in action catching fish!

How Do Cormorants Swim and Dive to Catch Fish?

How Do Cormorants Catch Fish?

Cormorants catch most of their food by diving underwater. Their bodies are well suited for swimming and diving. Here is how they do it:

Do Cormorants Dive Underwater to Catch Fish?

Yes, diving underwater is the main way cormorants catch fish. They use a technique called “pursuit diving.” This means they swim fast underwater to chase and catch their prey.

Some types of cormorants can dive up to 80 meters deep! That is deeper than the length of two school buses! Their streamlined bodies and webbed feet help them swim fast after fish.

How Do Cormorants’ Feet Help Them Swim?

Cormorants have webbed feet. This means their toes are connected by stretchy skin called a “web.” The webs on their big feet help them paddle and propel through the water. Their webbed feet give them strong swimming ability.

Why Are Cormorants Such Good Divers?

Several adaptations make cormorants excellent divers:

  • Webbed Feet – The webs allow them to swim quickly and maintain speed.
  • Streamlined Bodies – Their long, slender bodies and narrow wings reduce drag underwater.
  • Special Sinuses – Sinuses near their eyes help them see clearly underwater.
  • Feather Coating – Their wettable feathers trap air to keep them warm and buoyant underwater.

Their diving skills let cormorants efficiently pursue and catch fish underwater.

How Do Cormorants Swallow and Eat Fish?

Cormorants have some helpful adaptations that allow them to easily swallow fish:

How Do Cormorants Catch Fish?

Do Cormorants Swallow Fish Whole?

Yes, when catching smaller fish, cormorants typically swallow them whole underwater. Their large, hooked bills help them scoop up and grasp fish.

Their mouth and throat stretch very wide, allowing them to swallow fish whole. They use their long, flexible necks to toss fish down their gullet.

How Do Cormorants Get Fish Down Their Throat?

Cormorants have an expandable pouch in their throat called a gular pouch. They use this pouch to temporarily hold fish.

By manipulating fish in their gular pouch, cormorants can orient fish headfirst to swallow them properly. This ensures the fish slides easily down to their stomach.

Their adaptable throats let them gulp down slimy fish in one big motion. This allows cormorants to quickly catch and eat many fish in succession.

Do Cormorants Work Together to Catch Fish?

In some cases, cormorants coordinate together to catch bigger fish:

How Do Cormorants Catch Fish?

Can a Group of Cormorants Catch a Really Big Fish?

Yes! Cormorants have been observed working together to catch large fish. In groups of up to 30 birds, they can catch fish over 25 kg (59 pounds).

By swimming and diving in unison, they can corral schools of fish. This allows them to gang up on and catch much heavier fish.

How Do Cormorants Help Each Other Hunt?

Some clever hunting techniques involve teamwork:

  • Driving Fish – By beating their wings on the surface, cormorants can drive fish into shallow water near shore.
  • Surrounding Prey – Cormorants surround schools of fish, then take turns diving into the center of the group.
  • Taking Turns – One cormorant flushes fish out, while others wait underwater to ambush them as they flee.

Hunting together allows cormorants to utilize each other’s unique strengths and skills.

Are Cormorants Ever Used to Catch Fish by Humans?

In some cultures, humans use cormorants to catch fish for them:

How Are Cormorants Trained to Fish for Humans?

Specially trained cormorants are used in traditional fishing practices in some Asian countries. Fishermen tie a loose snare near the base of the cormorant’s throat.

This prevents the birds from swallowing larger fish they catch, while allowing them to eat smaller fish. The fishermen then have the cormorants regurgitate the fish into their boat.

When Did People Start Training Cormorants to Catch Fish?

The practice of cormorant fishing dates back over 1,300 years! It originated in ancient China and later spread to Japan.

Today, cormorant fishing mainly continues for historical and cultural purposes as a tourist attraction. It demonstrates a unique relationship between man and nature.


In summary, cormorants are supremely gifted at catching fish. Their excellent diving abilities, swift swimming, and expandable throats make them adept aquatic hunters. Cormorants use clever hunting strategies, either alone or by working together cooperatively.

Humans have even utilized cormorants’ natural fishing skills by training them to catch fish. So the next time you see a cormorant dive into the water and emerge with a fish, you’ll understand exactly how it was able to catch it!

About The Author

Scroll to Top