Fun Cape Cormorant Facts For Kids


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The Cape cormorant is a type of aquatic bird found in southern Africa. This bird is more common on the western coast of South Africa in comparison to the east coast. Their range also includes places like Namibia and Angola. During the non-breeding season, these birds are known to migrate to parts of Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The habitats of Cape cormorants range from offshore islands to manufactured structures. The breeding adults of this species have glossy black plumage, while during the non-breeding season, the feathers exhibit a dull and brownish appearance. The main food material consumed by Cape cormorants is various fish species. In fact, the adults are dependent on a sufficient supply of anchovy fishes for successful breeding. Cape cormorants nest in large colonies, with very little space between each nest. The females lay two to three eggs, and the chicks hatch out after nearly a month. These birds are endangered in the wild, with a long list of artificial and natural causes affecting their population.

To learn more about the Cape cormorant or Cape shag, keep reading! You can also check out Japanese cormorant facts and Indian cormorant facts

Cape Cormorant Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a cape cormorant?

The Cape cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis) is a kind of bird. It is also known as a Cape shag.

What class of animal does a cape cormorant belong to?

Cape cormorants are a part of the class Aves. They belong to the Phalacrocoracidae family, which consists of other cormorant and shag species.

How many cape cormorants are there in the world?

The current population of Cape cormorants was observed to be around 117,000 pairs of adult birds. Hence, the total breeding population was estimated at 234,000. Unfortunately, according to the International Union For Conservation Of Nature or IUCN, these shags have a decreasing population trend, but their population is not severely fragmented yet. The population range today is a sharp contrast against the population range in the 1970s when this bird's breeding population was estimated to be over 1 million in Namibia alone.

Where does a cape cormorant live?

The Cape shag is endemic to southern Africa. They are particularly abundant on the western coast of South Africa in comparison to the east coast. The natural range of these birds includes Namibia, Angola, and South Africa, during the breeding season. Even though these birds are non-migratory, there are local dispersals once the breeding season is over. Dispersion occurs as far as parts of southern Mozambique and northern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

What is a cape cormorant's habitat?

The Cape cormorant is known to inhabit offshore islands, mainland, and artificial construction near marine ecosystems. Other rarer habitats include estuaries, harbors, and lagoons. This shag has also been observed to live in old buildings and boats.

Who does the cape cormorant live with?

The Cape cormorant is a colonial bird, and hence, can be found in very large colonies during the breeding season. The breeding adults are known to nest in such colonies, which can have more than 100,000 pairs. This Cormorant species also forage on open water in large flocks.

How long does a cape cormorant live?

The lifespan of the Cape shag is not known. In general, cormorants can live for as long as 25 years. The same can be assumed about this bird.

How do they reproduce?

Cape cormorants lay eggs all year-round. However, the peak egg-laying season is between September and October. In Namibia, this period lasts until February. Usually, these birds make their nest on artificial platforms or cliffs, using plant materials like sticks, stems, and seaweed. The nesting is done in very dense colonies, with a 'pecking' distance between each nest. The female Cape cormorant lays between two to three eggs, which are chalky white in color. Both the parents take part in incubating the eggs, with a gap of 1.5-3.5 hours in between. The chicks hatch out after a period of 22-28 days. The chicks are born without any feathers and slowly develop a blackish down over time.

What is their conservation status?

Cape cormorants have been marked as Endangered birds by the International Union For Conservation Of Nature or IUCN. These shags face a number of threats, including climate change, shifts in their habitat, mining, fishing, and so on. Mass mortality due to diseases and breeding failure due to shortage of food has also contributed to this shag species being endangered. Additionally, increased seal predation has affected the Cape cormorant population, as the seals prey on the young chicks.

Cape Cormorant Fun Facts 

What does a cape cormorant look like?

The Cape cormorant builds its nest with plant materials.

The Cape cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis), or Cape shag, has a glossy black plumage, which seems to have a blue iridescence. The feathers on the upper wings and mantle appear to have a bronze tinge with a blackish fringe. The tail in this bird species is short and has a dull black color. However, during the non-breeding season, the cormorant has a much duller plumage, with more shades of brown. Additionally, it might have some blotchy spots from its throat to the upper-belly region. It has turquoise eyes, like the double-crested cormorants. Blue eyes are sometimes indicative of breeding adults in these birds. The Cape cormorant has fully-feathered lore and yellow-orange colored gape right at the base of its beak. The juvenile birds of this species have a brown tone mixed with their black plumage. They also have pale and spotted underparts. These plumage patterns can be used to spot these birds in the wild.

How cute are they?

These cormorants are certainly very cute to look at. During the breeding season, the adult bird of this species has a shiny black plumage, which further enhances its appearance.

How do they communicate?

These birds mainly communicate through different calls and vocalizations, even though they mostly remain silent. During the breeding season, the adults of both sexes engage in courtship displays, which involve low-pitched clucking, hiss-like clucking, and loud croaking. The juvenile birds in their nestling stage have been observed to produce 'pew-pew' and 'tchew-tchew' calls.

How big is a cape cormorant?

The length of a Cape shag is between 24-25.2 in (61-63.5 cm). In comparison to the great cormorant, which has a length between 27.5-40 in (70-102 cm), clearly, the Cape cormorant is much smaller.

How fast can a cape cormorant fly?

Cape shags have a similar flight speed to other species of cormorants. Their flight speed is recorded to be between 28-28.5 mph (45-46 kph). The wingspan of this bird is 43 in (109 cm), which certainly aids in its flight.

How much does a cape cormorant weigh?

The Cape cormorant weighs around 2.5-2.8 lb (1133-1270 g). The weight of this bird is comparable to the weight of the Neotropic cormorant, which weighs between 2.3-3.3 lb (1043.2-1496.8 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

The male and female cormorants of this species are known as male Cape cormorants and female Cape cormorants, they have no sex-specific names.

What would you call a baby cape cormorant?

A baby Cape cormorant is known as a chick.

What do they eat?

Cape cormorants are known to prey on different kinds of fish, along with squids, crustaceans, and mussels. Some of the fish species in their diet are pelagic goby, Cape anchovy, South African pilchard, and so on. These birds have an uncommon habit of searching for fish while in the air before pursuit-diving and catching their prey. They are known to forage in large groups or flocks.

Are they poisonous?

There are no instances to suggest that the Cape cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis) is a poisonous bird.

Would they make a good pet?

Given the conservation status of the Cape cormorant, it would be best not to keep these birds as pets.

Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.

Did you know...

Cormorants are capable of holding their breath for 15 minutes underwater. They are known to be expert divers and can dive up to a depth of 147.6 ft (45 m) in order to catch their prey.

What is the meaning of cormorant?

The name 'cormorant' was derived after combining two Latin words, 'corvus' and 'marinus'. The name literally translates to 'sea raven'. Additionally, the genus Phalacrocorax, to which the Cape cormorant belongs, also has an interesting history. This word is a combination of two Greek words; 'pahalakros', which means bald, and 'korax' which translates to a raven.

Are cormorants related to penguins? 

Both penguins and cormorants belong to the same class, Aves, as they are both birds. However, there are significant differences between the two. For instance, penguins are part of the Spheniscidae family, while Cape cormorants are members of the Phalacrocoracidae family. Additionally, while penguins and cormorants both prey on fish, their hunting methods are almost entirely different. Also, while almost all penguins are native to the Southern Hemisphere, cormorants are found in the north, in places like the UK, as well.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our Cuban parakeet fun facts and Crimson-breasted shrike interesting facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable baby bird on branch coloring pages.

Main image by Dick Daniels.

Second image by Alandmanson.

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