The great cormorant is the largest and the most common of the three specialist underwater hunting birds at the lake. They are found all around the world in both fresh and saltwater habitats. In India too they can be found in a wide variety of habitats, ranging from freshwater lakes and rivers to coastal areas.
There is a stark contrast between adult and juvenile birds of this species. The grey coat of the juvenile turns into an almost totally black one in the adults. The yellow-colored area 0n the cheek and the base of their beak also increases in size. We can compare the images above and below to get an idea.
These birds are master divers and can swim great distances underwater chasing their prey. Once the bird goes under you have no way to predict where it may pop up from. I have noticed them dive in one spot and reappear 40-50 feet away. Sometimes when there are several birds hunting in the area, when one emerges from the water I wonder if it's the same bird I saw go under or not. No way to tell for sure I guess.
Despite being skilled divers, they don't always emerge victorious from the water. Obviously, not every dive is successful. Pictured above is one such failed attempt. This poor guy looks utterly confused as to what went wrong.
These birds do get it right quite often and it's a spectacle to see them emerge from the water with fish in their mouth. Pictured below is one such instance.
The unfortunate fish was thrashing around to get free, but this little guy's grip on it was ironclad. You can see the water from the fish's tail splashing around it struggled to get free. Also, notice that the bird is closing its eyelids to protect its eye from any accidental injuries.
He made a couple of quick adjustments and delivered the final blow by impaling the fish right near its gills. I was surprised to see how effective this method was, as the fish almost immediately froze and became motionless. Whether these birds really understand the anatomy of the fish this well, or if it is pure instinct, I don't know.
Anyway, another quick toss and he downed the fish in one gulp! Fully satisfied with the meal he flew over to the little island in the middle of the lake and landed on a perch to dry off his feathers.