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.