Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Reed cormorant

Phalacrocorax africanus

Photo by Derek Keats (Flickr)

Common name:
reed cormorant (en); corvo-marinho-africano (pt); cormorant africain (fr); cormorán africano (es); riedscharbe (de)

Order Pelecaniformes
Family Phalacrocoracidae

The reed cormorant is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, including Madagascar, being found from Mauritania to Sudan and down to South Africa.

These small cormorants are 50-55 cm long and have a wingspan of 85 cm. They weigh 500-600 g.

The reed cormorant is mostly found in wetlands with shallow sheltered waters, fringing vegetation, emergent trees, and gently sloping banks, but can be found in virtually any freshwater wetland within its range with the exception of very fast-flowing streams. They also use inland alkaline lakes, coastal lagoons, estuaries, mangroves and occasionally rocky shores.

They hunt a wide range of fishes, frogs, crustaceans, aquatic insects, molluscs and even smaller birds. Cichlid fishes such as Haplochromis sp., Pseudocrenilabrus sp. and Sarotherodon sp. are particularly important prey in some areas.

Reed cormorants can breed all year round, varying between different parts of their range. They are monogamous and usually colonial, often forming mixed colonies with egrets, herons and darters. The nest in built by both sexes, consisting of a messy platform of sticks and dead reeds, with a cup in the centre which is lined with grass. It is typically placed in the fork of a tree over water, or in a large reed bed or even on the ground, but most often 0,5-6 m above the ground. The female lays 3-4 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for 23-24 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 3 weeks after hatching, but only become fully independent some 4 weeks later.

IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and is described as common and widespread. The overall population trend is decreasing, but some population are stable or even increasing as dam construction creates new areas of favourable habitat.

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