Flightless Cormorant

The world's only flightless cormorant


Another unique Galapagos resident, the Flightless Cormorant is the only species of cormorant in the archipelago. It’s the heaviest of the world’s cormorants, and the only one to have evolved to become flightless, thanks to the Galapagos’ unique isolation and rich habitat.

Found on the shoreline and beaches of Isabela and Fernandina Islands, the Galapagos Flightless Cormorant is unmistakable with its stubby, under-developed wings. Over millennia, the lack of natural predators and the rich, fish-filled waters meant that the strongest swimmers prevailed over the best flyers, and there are now around 800 pairs in the Galapagos.

The Flightless Cormorant breeds throughout the year, but most eggs are laid between May and October. Breeding pairs perform a strange and unique courtship dance that involves them intertwining their necks while turning together in a tight circle.

The cormorants nest directly on sheltered rocky shores where they build up nests made from seaweed just above the high water line, giving them the shortest walk down to the sea to feed. On your Galapagos cruise you’ll have ample opportunity to observe these rare creatures, and when you see how ungainly they are on land you will understand why they build nests close to the sea!

Our naturalist guides will explain to you how the Galapagos Flightless Cormorants are particularly susceptible to the weather events known as El Niño, and their populations can be devastated in bad years. Officially listed as “vulnerable”, the National Park has been working carefully to support the populations by removing any invasive species around the nesting sites.

Photos of the Flightless Cormorant

Fast Facts about the Flightless Cormorant

  • Because it has lost the ability to fly, the Galapagos Cormorant has been able to grow into the heaviest cormorant species
  • Like all cormorants, the Flightless Cormorant has 4 toes on each foot, each joined with a web of skin
  • Adult Flightless Cormorants make a low, growling noise as their call
  • Flightless cormorants don't use their stubby wings to "fly" underwater, they swim with their strong legs and feet

Where can the Flightless Cormorant be seen?

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All cruises to visit the Flightless Cormorant