What Do Cormorants Eat?

Cormorants love to eat fish. Fish is the primary food source for these opportunistic predators. The vast majority of cormorants are not particularly picky eaters but rather will consume virtually any aquatic creature they come across in their feeding grounds.

Almost all cormorant species eat fish and other marine creatures, including shrimp, crustaceans, mollusks, mussels, amphibians, insects, and the occasional octopus or squid. As expert fishers, cormorants use a wide variety of methods to reel in their meals. 

Do you want to learn more about the diet of the common cormorant? Are you anxious to know about the diet habits of this amazing species? Read on to learn about the specialty diets of these carnivorous seabirds. All of your queries will be answered here.

What Do Cormorants Eat?

A cormorant diet is broad and diverse. Cormorants will consume virtually anything floating in the water that looks appetizing. They have many methodical and efficient techniques for consuming their chosen food.

Since all cormorants feed on fish, they naturally catch a large proportion of their prey by diving into the water and chasing and trapping fish in their bills or grabbing them with their feet.

Fish are their favorite and preferred food. All cormorants have thick bills which allow them to crush the bones of their prey.

Also, this will allow them to extract the tasty meat within, sometimes even pinching the fins of their prey to keep the carcass out of the water.

It’s common for the flock to catch dozens of fish in a single dive. The cormorants can catch and eat 250 types of fish.

A Table of Charts: Cormorants and Their food habit

Cormorants What Do they Eat
Black cormorantsSculpins, rock gunnel, pollock, cunner, mummichog, Atlantic cod, winter flounder and other flatfishes, and tautog.
Pied cormorantsFish, crustaceans, mollusks.
Brandt’s cormorantsDifferent types of fish, including herring and rockfish. They also consume shrimp and crabs.
Imperial cormorantFish, crustaceans, cephalopods, and polychaete.
Neotropic cormorantFish, shrimp, frogs, and insect larvae.

Are Cormorants Carnivores? Eating Habits of Carnivores

Cormorants are carnivores and eat fish, crustaceans, frogs, and insects. These massive carnivores have the incredible ability to dive under the water in search of prey because their feathers do not have a water-resistant coating. The cherry on top is that they can go an entire minute without breathing. Crikey!


Small, bottom-dwelling, or schooling “forage” fish (less than 6 inches in length) make up most of an adult’s daily diet. They dine on a variety of fish but prefer the ones that are easier to catch due to their opportunistic nature.

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Depending on many parameters (distribution, relative abundance, behavior, etc.), a cormorant’s diet might look very different depending on where it is and when. It means cormorants can also eat 0.5kg of fish per day easily.

Eating habits of carnivores:

A carnivore is an organism that primarily consumes meat or animal flesh. Carnivores are sometimes referred to as predators.

The food they hunt and eat is called prey. Carnivores play an important role in the food chain, which describes which organisms feed other organisms in the wild.

How Do Cormorants Hunt Food?

Cormorants are generally social, nesting in colonies, aggregating in flocks, and frequently hunting in groups of up to 4,000 birds.

They catch fish by diving from the surface, pursuing their prey underneath, and snatching it with their hooked beak.

They do not passively drift while hunting but actively hunt in swarms. Cormorants are known to pull in fast-moving fish with their beaks, rearing up with their heads, sometimes with their wings at full extent.  They often grab onto the head or body of the fish to pull it underwater. Read more.

What Do Baby Cormorants Eat?

Usually, baby cormorants are dependent on their parent’s dieting nature. At this stage, they don’t hunt by themselves to survive; rather, they eat partially digested food of adult cormorants.

Normally parent cormorants prey on and intake a variety of fish and other aquatic creatures from nature. Their chicks typically reach into their mouths and eat the food their parents regurgitate.

According to a Netherlands-based study report, a baby cormorant eats 300 to 380g of fish daily (in its first months). Also, in the time of their fastest growth, parent cormorants need to feed them 600 to 632g per day.

Note: Approximately, parent cormorants need to prey 1.1 -1.9kg of fish per day for their baby cormorants.

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What Size Fish Do Cormorants Eat?

Fish make up most of a cormorant’s diet, though the types of fish they eat can change depending on the time of year.

They eat fish ranging in size from 3 centimeters (which they frequently swallow while swimming) to 50 centimeters (and longer for some Eels Anguilla Anguilla).

Cormorant on iceland

While large fish aren’t typically part of a cormorant’s diet, when one does appear, the bird draws a lot of attention to itself as it fumbles with and eventually swallows its prey at the water’s surface.

Despite being able to catch fish of varying sizes, cormorants’ diet is dominated by fish 10-25 centimeters in length.

What Do Flightless Cormorants Eat?

Flightless cormorants dive to great depths in search of the eels and octopuses that make up the bulk of their diet.

In order to hunt octopuses and fish from small refuges in the reefs and rocks, they tuck in their wings like penguins and kick with their muscular hind legs while utilizing their flexible necks to reach into the water.

Do Cormorants Eat Catfish?

Yes, cormorants eat catfish. Other fish species they hunt are as follows:

  • Trout
  • Grey heron
  • Shad
  • Mullet
  • White sturgeon
  • Paddlefish
  • Spiny dogfish
  • Gudgeon
  • Chub, and
  • Clams.

Do Cormorants Eat Salmon?

Yeah, cormorants eat salmon happily. The cormorants prey primarily on anchovies, but they also kill up to 20 million smolts of salmon and steelhead trout each year.

Do Cormorants Eat Snakes?

Yes, cormorants eat snakes too. Cormorants typically eat fish but occasionally consume aquatic invertebrates and even water snakes.

Do Cormorants Eat Jellyfish?

Cormorants can consume jellyfish. They usually capture jellyfish with their beaks and rear their heads so the tentacles can be easily pulled into their mouth.

Do Cormorants Eat Krill?

Krill is a small crustacean of cormorant really loves to eat krill. They normally eat one krill daily, but sometimes they eat up to 20.

Do Cormorants Eat Sardines?

Yes, cormorants can eat sardines. It’s a small fish similar to anchovies. This fish-eating bird typically eats one sardine per day.

Do Cormorants Eat Ducklings?

No, most cormorants do not eat ducklings. But some species of this carnivore have been observed to eat it when it is available. Eating other birds’ eggs is actually more common. However, some cormorants have been recorded as eating ducklings.

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Do Cormorants Eat Mackerel?

Cormorants eat mackerel and can eat up to 20 mackerel daily. Mackerels are common prey for cormorants because they feed on bottom-feeding organisms in the shallows, including clams, crabs, and shrimp.

So, it is a yummy food source for cormorants in several parts of Europe and North America; therefore, they undoubtedly consume it.

Do Cormorants Eat a Lot Of Fish?

Yes, cormorants indeed eat a lot of fish. The daily caloric needs of a cormorant are roughly 500 grams, though this number might fluctuate depending on the time of year and the size of the fish available.

In addition to being a nuisance, cormorants can cause permanent scarring to fish, especially larger ones that they catch but can’t eat. This harm heightens the danger of sickness, mortality, and stress for the fish that have been impacted.

How To Stop Cormorants from Eating Your Fish?

Cormorants are territorial fish hunters, but there are many methods to stop cormorants from eating your fish.  For example, fish in hatcheries or aquaculture ponds can be protected against cormorants with the help of netting or grid wires.


How many fish does a cormorant eat a day?

The great cormorant normally eats 1 lb (0.5 kg) or less of fish every day. This could be a larger catch or between 15 and 30 smaller fish items.

Do cormorants eat fish alive?

Fish the size of anchovies can be swallowed whole by cormorants while they are still alive and wriggling.

However, if the fish are larger and require the bird’s gullet to be stretched, the birds will stab or beat the fish until they become immobile before swallowing them.

How much does a cormorant weigh?

Usually, a cormorant’s weight varies from 2.6 to 3.7 kg. The average cormorants weigh 3.5 to 4.4 kg. The maximum cormorant weight is 6.6 kg and can range from 6 kg to 8 kg, which is quite big.

Do cormorants bite?

Ouch! Cormorants can bite and draw blood. Because of the powerful hook located at the very end of the beak, these birds present a unique danger. Their beaks are their strong weapon.


Cormorants eat whatever kind of fish they can manage to catch with their special hooked beaks, which are sharp enough to break the bones and skin of even the hardiest fish. This predator of fish is a beautiful and rare sight in nature.

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