EVERY WEEK THIS YEAR WE WILL HAVE NEW SUGGESTIONS FOR A DIFFERENT GROUP OF BIRDS TO LOOK FOR TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR #MY200BIRDYEAR LIST
This week, it is Cormorants, Gannet & Fulmar
Here are four species of seabird. Although you may be familiar with Cormorant from inland freshwater sites, they also live at the coast, as do their relatives, Shag and Gannet and the unrelated Fulmar. The latter three species are unusual inland and inland Fulmars are often sadly moribund. All are fish eaters.
Big and ugly, the reptilian Cormorant is an angular, goose-sized pterosaur of the bird world. Largely blackish, but with a white throat patch and hip patch (and often a white head in breeding plumage), Cormorants are distinctive perched upright in a tree or on a cliff or on the water. Younger birds are whitish on the underparts (unlike Shags of the subspecies found in the UK).
Much smaller than a Cormorant, the Shag is about the size of a large duck. Mainly a coastal bird, they may wonder inland occasionally, especially the browner juveniles. These can be identified by their small size, much finer bill, steeper forehead and white throat, lacking any of the yellow-orange bare skin of a Cormorant.
Three feet long and six feet in wing span, the Gannet is a huge seabird. Adults are just about unmistakable: giant Persil white with a yellow head and black outer wing and pointed at both ends. Younger birds (they take several years to mature) are harder to ID. Concentrate on the size and shape. The general rule is that they get whiter with successive years; juveniles are dark and neatly white spotted, second years get white bellies and so on…
Our only largish petrel, the Fulmar is as close as a tubenose gets to looking like a gull, with a white head and underparts and pale grey wings. The key is the way it flies: on stiff straight wings. Note also that there are no black wing tips and the rump and tail are pale grey (not white or dark banded). Almost exclusively seen at sea.
All photos from Alamy