Cape Cormorant

Phalacrocorax capensis

The Cape Cormorant is strictly a marine species, usually foraging in large flocks within 10km from the coastline and very seldomly venturing inland to feed in freshwater environments. Two kinds of pelagic schooling fish, the anchovy and pilchard (sardine), form the staple of the Cape Cormorant’s diet and are pursued under water to depths of over 30m. Adults weigh as much as 1,6kg, with a wingspan of around a metre.

Cape Cormorants nest in large, densely packed colonies, often mixed with other kinds of seabirds and mainly on rocky islands and outcrops in the sea, inaccessible cliffs along the coast, or shipwrecks. They breed throughout the year, with a peak in spring and summer. Pairs are monogamous, with the males fighting for the best nest spots. Nests are built of seaweed and sticks. Clutches consist of 1-5 (rarely up to 7) eggs and are incubated by both parents for 3 to 4 weeks. Chicks fledge when they are about 9 weeks old and are then cared for by the parents for several more weeks.

The Cape Cormorant occurs along the entire coastline of Namibia and South Africa and only marginally into Angola and Mozambique, with some venturing as far north as the mouth of the River Congo. They are most common along the Atlantic (west) coast, with less than 1% of the breeding population occurring east of Cape Agulhas. The IUCN classifies the Cape Cormorant as Endangered, due to a massive decline in their population over the past 30 years brought on by overfishing, oil pollution and disease outbreaks. The total population is currently estimated at about 230,000 mature individuals, and still in decline.

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16 thoughts on “Cape Cormorant

  1. John

    cormorant are nice birds, and it looks so awesome as they stretch their wings to dry their feathers after they dive. The most cormorant we have in Sweden, is the great cormorant, bur ore species of cormorant are coming here to settle down, no one knows why. I saw on Animal planet that fisherman in some country use cormorant to fish with. They could take so many as twelve fishes before they return to the boat and give them to the fisherman.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Fascinating to hear that they could be “taught” to work with humans, John!
      We have a close relative of the Great Cormorant that occurs in Africa, the White-breasted Cormorant, which we’ll feature sometime in the next three or four months.

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  2. BETH

    Anyway, let me say I have always been fascinated by the cormorant. To see them in such numbers is incredible! The more I read and see your photographs, the more I understand why you do what you do!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      That’s very kind of you, thanks Beth. Indeed the large flocks of Cape Cormorants we saw were most impressive, but at the same time one wishes to have seen what it would have looked like before their population was decimated by over-fishing and pollution!

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  3. scrapydo2.wordpress.com

    Hul is oral te sien. Jy moet rerig begin om reeks foto boekies uit te gee. Maggies ek kom nie by jou uit nie en wil so graag. As dit nou in n bundel uitgegee word kan jy stelselmatig nog byvoeg. Jy het genoeg mooi fotos en inligting.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Dankie Dina. Lyk vir my meeste wereldstreke spog met bevolkings duikers / kormorante. Ons het 5 soorte, maar 3 daarvan kom net lands die kus van SA en Namibie voor en is bedreig in wiseelende grade – die Trekduiker (hierdie spesie) is een van hulle.

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  4. Dan Drews

    Cormorants seem to be every where. We had them in Ontario, now in British Columbia, in the salt water, and escaping winter in Puerto Vallarta, they are also found here. In Ontario, we would see them perched on top of barn roofs drying their feathers. Is that also true of the Cape Cormorant? Cheers.

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