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A photo of a Crowned Cormorant (Microcarbo coronatus)
Crowned Cormorant

Crowned Cormorant

Microcarbo coronatus

The Crowned Cormorant, known scientifically as Microcarbo coronatus, is a diminutive seabird, measuring 50–55 cm in length. The adult of the species is cloaked in black plumage and is adorned with a modest crest upon its head, along with a distinctive red patch gracing its face.

Identification Tips

To identify the Crowned Cormorant, look for its small stature and the characteristic crest on the head of adults. The juveniles, in contrast, are robed in dark brown on their upper parts and a lighter brown below, lacking the adult's crest. They can be differentiated from the immature Reed Cormorants by their darker underparts and a tail of lesser length.

Habitat

This species is strictly coastal, favoring the chilly waters of the Benguela Current off southern Africa. It is a bird that seldom ventures more than 10 km from the shoreline.

Distribution

The Crowned Cormorant is endemic to the southern African coast, with its range stretching from Cape Agulhas northward to Swakopmund.

Behaviour

The Crowned Cormorant is known to forage in the shallow coastal waters and amidst the kelp beds, seeking out slow-moving fish and invertebrates. It constructs its nest from an assortment of materials including kelp, sticks, and bones, and lines it with either kelp or feathers. These nests are typically placed in elevated positions such as rocks, trees, or man-made structures, though ground nests are not unheard of.

Breeding

Breeding occurs in small groups, with colonies typically comprising fewer than 150 individuals. The species is known to disperse considerable distances, with juveniles traveling up to 277 km from their nesting sites, and adults moving between breeding locations over 500 km apart.

Conservation Status

The Crowned Cormorant is currently classified as Near Threatened due to its limited distribution area. Threats to its survival include predation of eggs and chicks by Kelp Gulls and Great White Pelicans, human disturbance, oiling, and the impacts of commercial fishing, such as entanglement in marine debris and plastic fishing gear. The population is estimated to be between 2,500 and 2,900 breeding pairs.

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