There are 15 species of seabirds that breed within southern Africa, of which the endemic cape cormorant Phalacrocorax capensis is one. Cape cormorants are one of the smaller cormorants found in the region. Adults of this species are uniformly black, with a bright yellow-orange gape at the base of the bill, which is grey-black. Cape cormorants primarily feed on anchovy and sardine, which are also the two main species caught by the regions purse-seine fisheries. Collapsing pelagic fish stocks are one of the reasons that cape cormorants are listed as Endangered, the others being susceptibility to avian cholera outbreaks and sensitivity to oil spills. In Plettenberg Bay we have a breeding colony of cape cormorants on Robberg Nature Reserve. Cape cormorants fly in long lines or V-shaped flocks, and will settle together on the sea and dive for fish. This may become a feeding frenzy as other seabirds join in.
For more reading:
• BirdLife International. 2015. Species factsheet: Phalacrocorax capensis. <www.birdlife.org>. Downloaded on 10 September 2015.
• Branch, G.M., Griffiths, C.L., Branch, M.L. and Beckley, L.E. 2010. Two Oceans: A guide to the marine life of southern Africa. Pp. 354. Random House Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
• Crawford, R.J.M., Makhado, A.B., Waller, L.J. and Whittington, P.A. 2014. Winners and losers – responses to recent environmental change by South African seabirds that compete with purse-seine fisheries for food. Ostrich 85: 111-117.
• Marks, M.A., Brooke, R.K. and Gildenhuys, A.M. 1997. Cape fur seal Arctocephalus pusillus predation on cape cormorants Phalacrocorax capensis and other birds at Dyer Island, South Africa. Marine Ornithology 25: 9–12.