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Red-legged Cormorant Phalacrocorax gaimardi
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species has a moderately small population which is showing moderately rapid declines owing to mortality in fishing operations and unsustainable exploitation. For these reasons it is classified as Near Threatened.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

71-76 cm. A grey shag. Head, neck, back, wings and tail all dark grey with feathers of upper back, scapulars and wings bearing silver grey sub-terminal markings bordered by black tips. Underside paler with a whitish throat and cheeks. Bill yellow orange and face reddish. Eye green. Legs and feet coral red. Juveniles occur in several morphs but generally brownish above, paler below with gular patch dark. Legs orange or dark-coloured. Similar spp. Unmistakeable.

Distribution and population
Phalacrocorax gaimardi occurs on the coasts of southern South America: 13,000-15,000 breeding birds in the Pacific from Isla Foca, Peru, to Punta Elefante, Peninsula de Taitao, Chile; and 1,600-1,800 birds in the Atlantic from Bahia Sanguinetto to the Monte León National Park, Santa Cruz province and occasionally to the strait of Magellan, Argentina (Gandini & Frere 1995; Zavalaga et al. 2002; Frere et al. 2004, 2005). Populations have declined, particularly in Peru (Frere et al. 2004). A series of surveys in Peru in 1999-2000 estimated the population to number 1,518-2,082 birds, and reported declines of up to 97.9% (3,229 to 69 birds) at ten localities in northern and central Peru between 1968 and 1999-2000, declines of 97.6% (2,230 to 54 birds) in the Chinchas and Ballestas islands between 1978 and 1999-2000, and declines of 72.6% (580 to 159 birds) at eight southern localities between the first half of the 1990s and 1999-2000 (Zavalaga et al. 2002). In Chile, surveys during 1998-2000 produced an estimate of 5,018-5,218 breeding pairs (Frere et al. 2004). Although El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events may have led to distributional changes (with southern regions having become particularly important for the species), the population declines reported in Peru do not seem to have been mirrored in Chile (Frere et al. 2004). The main 12 colonies in Argentina are concentrated along the coast of Santa Cruz (Puerto Deseado and Santa Cruz) (Gandini & Frere 1995; Frere et al. 2005), where coastal development is increasing rapidly (Gandini & Frere 1995). During the last 10 years the Argentinian breeding population has declined by 18% but the causes are unknown (Millones et al. 2007). The world population is now estimated at 30,000 individuals (Frere in litt. 2007) . Continued population declines may lead to this species being uplisted to Vulnerable.

Population justification
The world population has been estimated at 30,000 individuals (E. Frere in litt. 2007).

Trend justification
El Niño-driven declines have drastically reduced Peruvian populations, and the species has shown reported declines of 18% on the Atlantic coast in Argentina. However, the sizeable southern populations appear to be relatively stable (Frere et al. 2004) and hence an overall decline of 20-30% is suspected.

It favours rocky coastline with cliffs for nesting and shallow cold productive offshore waters for feeding. It nests in inaccessible areas rather than the tops of rocky islets. Sometimes nests in loose aggregations approaching colonies. Generally solitary when feeding but may occur in flocks. Red-legged Cormorants are inshore feeders (less than 3 km from the colony) and forage in shallow waters (<15 m) on benthic fish and invertebrates (Frere et al. 2004).  Often found coexisting with rock shags Phalacrocorax magellanicus, sharing the same cliffs but not mixing nest sites, its breeding success shown to increase with this sympatry (Millones et al. 2008). In two of eight localities it also breeds sympatrically with imperial cormorants Phalocrocorax atriceps (Millones et al. 2008). Avian predation of eggs and wind exposure at nest sites are important factors influencing chick mortality, with studies showing highest densities of active nests in areas protected from prevailing wind conditions (Millones et al. 2008).

Most threats result from interactions with fishers and fisheries: directly through entanglement in equipment, and indirectly through competition with fishers targeting benthic invertebrates and also when fishers take adults, chicks and eggs at a subsistence level. The species has been detrimentally affected by ENSO events in the north of its range, particularly in northern Peru where dramatic declines have been recorded owing to kelp die-off caused by sea temperature rises. The main colonies in Argentina are concentrated around Puerto Deseado (588 mature individuals [Gandini & Frere 1995]), where there is a plan to double the size of the industrial harbour (Frere et al. 2004). The increase in fishing activity that would follow this development would favour its main predator, Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus (Frere et al. 2004) which is known to heavily impact breeding success (Millones et al. 2008).

Conservation Actions Underway
Chile is discussing the creation of a network of marine protected areas along its coastline. Peru and Argentina are improving their coastal marine protected areas network. Conservation Actions Proposed
Support the proposal to establish a network of marine protected areas in coastal Chile. Assess the impact of the proposed industrial harbour in Argentina and recommend appropriate action. Monitor populations to identify changing trends. Research ways to minimise fisheries interactions. Identify and monitor key sites for the species, and aim to establish these as marine protected areas. Determine levels of hunting and bycatch in various parts of its range.

Frere, E. and Gandini, P.A. 2001. Aspects of the breeding biology of the red-legged cormorant Phalacrocorax gaimardi on the Atlantic coast of South America. Marine Ornithology 29(2): 67-70.

Frere, E.; Gandini, P.; Ruiz, J.; Vilina, Y. A. 2004. Current status and breeding distribution of Red-legged Cormorant Phalacrocorax gaimardi along the Chilean coast. Bird Conservation International 14: 113-121.

Frere, E.; Quintana, F.; Gandini, P. 2005. Cormorantes de la Costa Patagónica: estado poblacional, ecología y conservación. Hornero 20(1): 35-52.

Gandini, P.; Frere, E. 1995. Distribución, abundancia y ciclo reproductivo del cormoran gris, Phalacrocorax gaimardi, en la costa patagonica, Argentina. Hornero 14: 57-60.

Millones, A., Frere, E. and Gandini, P. 2005. Dieta del cormorán gris (Phalacrocorax gaimardi) en la Ria Deseado, Santa Cruz, Argentina. Ornitologia Neotropical 16: 519-527.

Millones, A.; Frere, E.; Gandini, P. 2008. Breeding habitat use by the Red-legged Cormorant (Phalacrocorax gaimardi) in Patagonia, Argentina. Waterbirds 31(4): 656-660.

Simeone, A., Bernal, M. and Meza, J. 1999. Incidental mortality of Humboldt penguins Speniscus humboldti in gill nets, central Chile. Marine Ornithology 27: 157-161.

Zavalaga, C. B.; Frere, E.; Gandini, P. 2002. Status of the Red-legged Cormorant in Peru: what factors affect distribution and numbers? Waterbirds 25: 8-15.

Further web sources of information
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Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Lascelles, B., Pilgrim, J., Sharpe, C J, Anderson, O.

Frere, E.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Phalacrocorax gaimardi. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Red-legged cormorant (Phalacrocorax gaimardi) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants)
Species name author (Lesson & Garnot, 1828)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 529,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species