Look out for large birds – their wings held out open to dry – perched on a sturdy branch or discarded supermarket trolley poking out of the river at low tide. Their distinctive dark plumage and shaggy wing feathers sometimes makes them look like discarded black umbrellas! These birds are Cormorants, regular visitors to Bristol Docks.

Adult Cormorants are large birds with a wing span of 140-169cm. They are agile swimmers and skilful hunters which live on fish, diving down in search of a tasty meal. Cormorants are an indicator of clean water as they only eat fish. Now that the water quality in the New Cut has improved and more fish are once again in Bristol’s waterways, Cormorants are here to stay and their numbers appear to be increasing.

Cormorants are often confused with their cousins, shags, but these are generally found around our coastline, rarely in cities such as Bristol. If you are unsure, adult shags have a tuft of features on top of their head and Cormorants have a thicker and stronger beak than shags.

More Short Cuts


This sandstone was formed in the desert conditions of the Triassic period, approximately 200-250 million years ago.

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The Moon and the New Cut

Without the influence of the moon, the Cut would never have been built, nor would it have its intriguing changes of water levels or the unique habitat of brackish water.

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