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The cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) is common around the world – the Chinese have long been known to train domesticated birds for fishing and, in 17th-century England, it was a court fashion to tame cormorants for fishing, a trend so prevalent that the royal household included a Master of the Cormorants. Though they fish by diving underwater for up to two minutes at a time, their plumage is not waterproof, which is why cormorants can often be seen with wings outstretched, drying in the wind and sunshine.

cormorant (2)

Cormorants are large and very distinctive birds – to some, quite reptilian in appearance, and can be found throughout Britain, in their preferred habitats of rocky coastlines and coastal estuaries, though in recent years the European subspecies has increasingly been populating inland lakes and waterways. For this the cormorant suffers very bad press from fishermen, who have been demanding the right to cull these superior fishers. One place where the birds are particularly well regarded, however, is Liverpool, where the Liver Bird – actually a cormorant – has long been the city’s emblem.