Reed Cormorants inhabit most freshwater habitats, with the exception of fast flowing rivers, preferring quiet, sheltered, shallow and well vegetated water bodies where they hunt underwater, primarily for fish as well as frogs, crustaceans and molluscs, either singly or in small groups.
Reed Cormorants are diurnal, being most active in the early morning and late afternoon. At night they roost in large communities, often mixed with other species. The Reed Cormorant is subject to some nomadic movements in response to fluctuating water levels. It is a relatively small cormorant, with a wingspan of 85cm and a weight of about half a kilogram. They often rest with wings outstretched to dry.
Reed Cormorants often breed in groups of 1 – 50 pairs in mixed-species colonies with herons, ibises and other cormorants. They nest at any time of year, though there is a peak in spring and summer. Their nests are built of twigs and other vegetation over water, either in trees or reedbeds or on cliffs, and clutches contain 1 – 6 (usually 3 or 4) eggs that are incubated by both parents for just over 3 weeks. The chicks become independent at about two months of age.
The Reed Cormorant occurs widely across Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, and is considered as being of least concern by the IUCN, despite a declining population as a result of persecution by fish farmers and disturbance by human activities. In South Africa they can be found in all provinces, even occurring in the arid Northern Cape along the courses of the Orange and Vaal Rivers and their large tributaries.