Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Crowned cormorant

Phalacrocorax coronatus

(Photo from Resim Sitesi)

Common name:
crowned cormorant (en); corvo-marinho-de-coroa (pt); cormoran couronné (fr); cormorán coronado (es); Wahlbergscharbe (de)

Order Pelecaniformes
Family Phalacrocoracidae

The crowned cormorant is endemic to the cold waters of the Benguela current of southern Africa. It can be found along the coasts of Namibia and South Africa between Swakopmund and Cape Agulhas.

This small cormorant is 50-55 cm in length. They have a wingspan of 85 cm and can weigh up to 800 g.

The species occurs during both the breeding and the non-breeding season along the coastal cliffs of the mainland and offshore islands in the cold waters of the Benguela current. It has never been recorded more than 10 km offshore, or more than 100 m inland. It forages in shallow coastal waters and estuaries, often in kelp beds, among breaking waves or in tidal pools during periods of high tide.

The diet is mostly composed of benthic fish, particularly klipfish (Clinidae) and pipefish (Syngnathidae) of up to 16 cm. Shrimps and isopods also form a small part of the diet.

The crowned cormorant breeds in mixed seabird colonies, in sheltered areas of rocks, cliffs, bushes, small trees, kelp wracks, as well as man-made structures including jetties, the supports of guano platforms, wrecked ships and sometimes moored ships. The nest is build with kelp, sticks and finer materials, and it can be used for several years in succession. They lay 2-5 eggs which are incubated for at least 23 days. After hatching the chicks are fed for at least 30 days and become independent after 45-60 days.

IUCN status - NT (Near-Threatened)
With a population of just 8700 individuals and a restricted breeding range, the crowned cormorant is threatened by human disturbance and mortality due to entanglement in fishing lines. A recent major oil-spill affected some colonies. The recent increase in Cape fur seal Arctocephalus pusillus abundance lead to increased predation, particularly on fledgelings.

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