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the web of life in southern Africa

Phalacrocorax coronatus (Crowned cormorant)

Kuifkopduiker [Afrikaans]; Kroonaalscholver [Dutch]; Cormoran couronné [French]; Wahlbergscharbe [German]; Corvo-marinho-coroado [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Phalacrocoracidae

Phalacrocorax coronatus (Crowned cormorant)  
Crowned cormorant, Stoney Point, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]  

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to the west coast of southern Africa, occurring rocky areas of coast the coastline and offshore islands, while large absent from freshwater habitats.

Distribution of Crowned cormorant in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of Arctocephalus pusillus (Cape fur seal).

Movements and migrations

Largely sedentary, although juveniles disperse quite far from their parent's territory.


It mainly eats klipfish, doing most of it foraging in rock pools and in the breaking waves, pursuing its prey underwater in bouts of roughly 7-59 seconds. Its jaw is adapted to handling slow-moving, bottom-dwelling fish, as it struggles to catch more fast moving prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Fish
    • Clinus superciliosus (Super klipfish)
    • Syngnathus (pipefish)
    • Chaloderma capito (Looseskin blenny)
    • Spicara axillaris (Windtoy)
    • Heteromycteris capensis (Cape sole)
  • Invertebrates
    • crustaceans
      • Palaemon pacificus (Sand shrimp)
      • isopods
      • amphipods
    • molluscs
      • octopus
    • polychaete worms
      • Sabellastarte longa (Giant fanworm)


  • Monogamous, colonial nester, nesting in small colonies with less than 30 nests, often within a larger colony of other seabirds, herons and egrets. The male displays at his nest site, puffing its feathers and rapidly jerking his head backward and forward.
Phalacrocorax coronatus (Crowned cormorant)  
Crowned cormorants on nests. [photo H. Robertson ©]  
  • The nest is mainly built by the female, consisting of a platform of sticks, dry seaweed, feathers and bones, often stained pink with guano. It is typically placed on an island or some other site which is inaccessible to mammalian predators, such as a cliff, ledge, wrecked ship, boulder, moored boat, pier or rocky outcrop.
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from September-March.
  • It lays 1-5 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for 21-23 days.
  • The chicks leave the nest at about 12 days old for the rocks and sea adjacent to the colony, taking their first flight at roughly 35 days old and becoming fully independent about 10-25 days later.


Near-threatened due to its small population and dependence on conservation efforts.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.