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Species Guide
A photo of a Reed Cormorant (Microcarbo africanus)
Reed Cormorant

Reed Cormorant

Microcarbo africanus

The Reed Cormorant, also known as the Long-tailed Cormorant, is a diminutive member of the cormorant family Phalacrocoracidae. With an overall length of 50–55 cm and a wingspan stretching 80–90 cm, this bird presents a predominantly black plumage with a green gloss during the breeding season. Notably, it sports silvery wing coverts, a somewhat elongated tail, and a modest head crest. A distinctive red or yellow patch adorns its face, complemented by a yellow bill.

Identification Tips

In breeding attire, the Reed Cormorant is resplendent in its glossy greenish-black plumage. The non-breeding adults and juveniles, however, exhibit a browner hue and a white underbelly. Some southern populations maintain their crest throughout the year. Both sexes are similar in appearance, making them indistinguishable in the field.


The Reed Cormorant is quite adaptable, making its home in a variety of freshwater wetlands and tranquil coastal environments.


This species is widespread and common, inhabiting inland and coastal regions across Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. It is a resident bird, though it may engage in some seasonal movements.


An adept diver, the Reed Cormorant often forages in shallow waters, occasionally diving to impressive depths. It has a predilection for small, slow-moving fish with elongated bodies, such as mormyrids, catfishes, and cichlids, but will also consume soles, frogs, aquatic invertebrates, and occasionally small birds. Prey is typically brought to the surface before consumption.


The Reed Cormorant's nesting habits are quite private, with nests typically concealed by long grasses either in trees or on the ground. Clutches usually consist of two to four eggs.

Similar Species

The Reed Cormorant could potentially be confused with other cormorant species, but its smaller size, long tail, and the coloration of its face patch and bill are distinguishing features.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Reed Cormorant is primarily piscivorous, focusing on fish that match its preferred size and shape. However, its diet can be quite varied depending on local availability.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List categorizes the Reed Cormorant as Least Concern, indicating that, at present, there are no significant threats to its population numbers.

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