Family Cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae)


Cape Cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis)


French: Cormoran du Cap German: Kapscharbe Spanish: Cormorán de El Cabo
Other common names: Cape Shag

Pelecanus capensis


, 1788,

False Bay, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Sometimes placed in genus Leucocarbo. Monotypic.


Breeds on coasts of Angola (I dos Tigres)#R, Namibia and W & S South Africa. Disperses N to R Congo and S Mozambique.

Descriptive notes

61–64 cm; 1155–1306 g; wingspan 109 cm. Mid-sized short-tailed cormorant with fully-feathered lores but no crest. Breeding adult has glossy black plumage, glossed... read more


Usually silent, away from breeding colonies. During breeding season, a soft croak repeated at... read more


Almost exclusively marine. Fishes in the cold waters of the Benguela Current, generally less than... read more

Food and feeding

Predominantly pelagic schooling fish, especially South African pilchard (Sardinops ocellata) and Cape anchovy (Engraulis... read more


Egg-laying occurs throughout much of year, with a peak usually in Sept–Oct, extending to Feb in Namibia. However, extent of breeding... read more


Mainly sedentary but there is extensive post breeding dispersal, with birds reaching mouth of... read more

Status and conservation

ENDANGERED. Formerlly considered Near Threatened. Abundant on SW Africa coast where census in early 1980s yielded 280,000 pairs at 60 breeding locations, 171,000 of which in... read more

Recommended citation

Orta, J., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2019). Cape Cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 16 June 2019).