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I Dream Africa

I Dream Africa



The Phalacrocoracidae is a family of medium-to-large coastal, fish-eating sea-birds that includes cormorants and shags. Plumage coloration varies with the majority having mainly dark plumage, some species being black and white, and a few being colorful. There are 38 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in Namibia.

Cape Cormorant Phalacrocorax capensis

The Cape Cormorant or Cape Shag, Phalacrocorax capensis, is a bird endemic to the southwestern coasts of Africa.

It breeds from Namibia south to southern Cape Province. In the nonbreeding season, it may be found as far north as the mouth of the Congo, and also extends up the east coast of South Africa as far as Mozambique. In the 1970s, the breeding population was estimated as over 1 million in Namibia alone. However, the IUCN now classifies it as "Near Threatened" on the grounds of: ongoing pollution from oil slicks, disturbance to stocks of its prey, and pathogen or parasite increases.

The Cape Cormorant is an almost entirely glossy black bird, though in breeding condition it has a purplish tinge and a few white plumes on head, neck, and cloacal areas. Its gular skin is a deep orangey yellow; unusually for a cormorant, its lores are feathered. The bird's wing is about 240–280 mm in extent, and it weighs 800-1600 grams, with little sexual dimorphism.

Cape Shags commonly forage in flocks, taking schooling fish from mid-water, such as pilchards, anchovies, and sandeels. Its prey are typically much smaller than those of the sympatric Bank Cormorant. Their major predators are Black-backed Jackals, which take the occasional adult while it is roosting, and nest-site predators such as Great Cormorants, Eastern Great White Pelicans, and Kelp Gulls.
Like a number of other related cormorant species, the Cape Cormorant is placed by some authorities (e.g. Johnsgaard) in the genus Leucocarbo.

Bank Cormorant Phalacrocorax neglectus

The Bank Cormorant, Phalacrocorax neglectus, also known as Wahlberg's Cormorant is a medium-sized cormorant that is endemic to Namibia and the western seaboard of South Africa, living in and around coastal waters; it is rarely recorded more than 15 km offshore.

The Bank Cormorant is a heavy-bodied bird, roughly 75 cm in length. It is generally black in appearance with a bronze sheen, though the wings are a dark brown rather than a true black. Adults have a small crest on their heads, and normally have a white rump.

A prime food for these birds is the cape rock lobster Jasus lalandii, and their feeding distribution closely matches the kelp beds where these lobsters live, though the birds will also take a variety of other crustacean and fish prey, notably Pacific goby Sufflogobius bibarbatus.

The birds may breed at any time of the year, laying two or three chalky-white eggs in a nest constructed from seaweed and guano.

Numbers of these birds have been declining sharply in recent decades, partly because of commercial fishing for Pacific goby, partly because of increasing human disturbance, and partly because numbers of Kelp Gulls have been increasing because of human provisioning, and the gulls are active predators on the cormorant eggs and chicks. The world population is probably now around 4000 birds. The most important population centres are in Mercury Island and Ichaboe Island in Namibia.

Long-tailed Cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus

The Reed Cormorant (Microcarbo africanus), also known as the Long-tailed Cormorant, is a bird in the cormorant family Phalacrocoracidae. It breeds in much of Africa south of the Sahara, and Madagascar. It is resident but undertakes some seasonal movements.

This is a common and widespread species, and is not considered to be threatened. It breeds on freshwater wetlands or quiet coasts. Two to four eggs are laid in a nest in a tree or on the ground, normally hidden from view by long grass.

This is a small cormorant at 50–55 cm length and an 85 cm wingspan. It is mainly black, glossed green, in the breeding season. The wing coverts are silvery. It has a longish tail, a short head crest and a red or yellow face patch. The bill is yellow.

Sexes are similar, but non-breeding adults and juveniles are browner, with a white belly. Some southern races retain the crest all year round.

The Reed Cormorant can dive to considerable depths, but usually feeds in shallow water. It frequently brings prey to the surface. It takes a wide variety of fish. It prefers small slow-moving fishes, and those with long and tapering shapes, such as mormyrids, catfishes, and cichlids. It will less frequently eat soles (which can be important in its diet locally), frogs, aquatic invertebrates, and small birds.

Crowned Cormorant Phalacrocorax coronatus

The Crowned Cormorant, Microcarbo coronatus, is a small cormorant that is endemic to the waters of the cold Benguela Current of southern Africa. It is an exclusively coastal species and is always found at least 10 km (6 mi) away from land. This species is related to the Reed Cormorant, and was formerly considered to the same species.

Distribution: It is found from Cape Agulhas north to Swakopmund along the coast of southern Africa.

The population appears to be between 2500 and 2900 breeding pairs. It breeds in small groups, with fewer than 150 individuals per colony being typical. Ringing recoveries show that juveniles may disperse up to 277 km from their nests, and adults move between breeding sites over 500 km apart.

The Crowned Cormorant is 50–55 cm in length. Adults are black with a small crest on the head and a red face patch. Young birds are dark brown above, paler brown below, and lack the crest. They can be distinguished from immature Reed Cormorants by their darker underparts and shorter tail.

Behavior: Crowned Cormorants feed on slow-moving fish and invertebrates, which they forage for in shallow coastal waters and among kelp beds.

It builds a nest from kelp, sticks, bones and lines it with kelp or feathers. The nest is usually in an elevated position such as a rocks, trees or man-made structures, but may be built on the ground.

Conservation: Threats to the species include predation of eggs and chicks by Kelp Gulls and Great White Pelicans, human disturbance, oiling, and commercial fishing activities, including entanglement in marine debris and fishing gear.

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

This is a very common and widespread bird species. It feeds on the sea, in estuaries, and on freshwater lakes and rivers. Northern birds migrate south and winter along any coast that is well-supplied with fish.

The 80–100 cm long White-breasted Cormorant P. c. lucidus found in sub-Saharan Africa, has a white neck and breast. It is often treated as a full species, Phalacrocorax lucidus (e.g. Sibley & Monroe, 1990, Sinclair, Hockey and Tarboton, 2002)

Behaviour: The Great Cormorant breeds mainly on coasts, nesting on cliffs or in trees (which are eventually killed by the droppings), but also increasingly inland. 3-4 eggs are laid in a nest of seaweed or twigs.

The Great Cormorant can dive to considerable depths, but often feeds in shallow water. It frequently brings prey to the surface. A wide variety of fish are taken: cormorants are often noticed eating eels, but this may reflect the considerable time taken to subdue an eel and position it for swallowing, rather than any dominance of eels in the diet.

Relationships with humans: Many fishermen see in the Great Cormorant a competitor for fish. Because of this it was nearly hunted to extinction in the past. Thanks to conservation efforts its numbers increased.

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