The white-breasted cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus) is much like the widespread great cormorant and if not a regional variant of the same species, is at least very closely related. It is distinguished from other forms of the great cormorant by its white breast and by the fact that subpopulations are freshwater birds. Phalacrocorax lucidus is not to be confused with the smaller and very different endemic South Australian black-faced cormorant, which also is sometimes called the white-breasted cormorant.
The white-breasted cormorant is the only form of great cormorant found in Sub-Saharan Africa, the only form that has strictly freshwater populations and the only form with a white breast and throat; it does however interbreed freely with dark-breasted forms in central Africa. It has a wide distribution; on the west coast from the Cape Verde Islands to Guinea-Bissau and from Angola to the Cape of Good Hope and northwards on the east coast to Mozambique. It occurs around the entire Southern African coastline, but it is not clear whether the coastal populations are separate from the inland populations. On the African mainland it occurs more frequently in eastern and southern parts, rather than in the drier western regions, where it usually is found only on perennial rivers and dams. On inland waters it commonly occurs together with the reed cormorant and the African darter, but it is ecologically separated from these species by its fishing habits and the size and nature of its prey. There are also inland populations in Nigeria and around Lake Chad, and in eastern and southern Africa from Sudan southwards. It can be found around the Red Sea, where it is sometimes referred to as the Red Sea white-breasted cormorant.