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Crowned Cormorant Microcarbo coronatus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is listed as Near Threatened owing to its small population, which is thought to be stable or increasing. However, the species faces threats from disturbance and marine pollution, and if these increased a decline could be triggered, possibly qualifying the species for a higher threat category (it almost qualifies for listing under criterion C1).

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.

Taxonomic note
Microcarbo coronatus (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Phalacrocorax.

Phalacrocorax coronatus (Wahlberg, 1855)

Distribution and population
Microcarbo coronatus is restricted to the west coast of southern Africa, breeding at 48 localities from Walvis Bay in Namibia to Cape Agulhas in South Africa. During 1977-1981, the population was estimated to be 2,665 breeding pairs. The most recent estimate is of 8,700 individuals (du Toit et al. 2002). Information from 10 well-monitored islands off South Africa suggests that the population is stable or increasing. However, birds are known to move between breeding sites, and the possibility of duplicate counting cannot be discounted without coordinated simultaneous surveys throughout. With a small global population, and movement between breeding sites, sudden declines may go unnoticed.

Population justification
The most recent estimate of the population was of 8,700 individuals, roughly equivalent to 5,800 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Data from 10 well-monitored islands off South Africa suggest that the population is stable or increasing.

Behaviour This species is largely sedentary, with some movement occurring to the north and east of its breeding range (Crawford et al. 1982). Egg-laying occurs all year round, but with a seasonal peak in late spring and summer - over 60% of nesting activity occurring between November and January (Crawford et al. 1982). At Malgas Island, South Africa most breeding takes place between September and April (Crawford et al. 1999), while in northern South Africa and southern Namibia breeding peaks from October to February (Crawford et al. 1999). The seasonal pattern in central Namibia requires investigation (Crawford et al. 1999). It usually breeds in small groups of 4-50 pairs (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993), although colonies supporting up to 280 nests have been recorded (Johnsgard 1993). It usually forages solitarily (Harrison et al. 1997). Habitat The species occurs during both the breeding and the non-breeding season along the coastal cliffs of the mainland and offshore islands in the cold waters of the Benguela Current (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It has never been recorded more than 10 km offshore (del Hoyo et al. 1992), or more than 100 m inland (Johnsgard 1993). It forages in shallow coastal waters and estuaries (Harrison et al. 1997), often in kelp beds (del Hoyo et al. 1992), among breaking waves or in tidal pools during periods of high tide (Johnsgard 1993). It does not forage off sandy shores (Johnsgard 1993). Diet Diet consists largely (97%) (Williams and Cooper 1983) of benthic fish, particularly klipfish (Clinidae) and pipefish (Syngnathidae) of up to 160 mm in length (Williams and Cooper 1983). Shrimps and isopods also form a small part of the diet (Brown et al. 1982). Breeding site This species commonly breeds in mixed seabird colonies. Nest sites include sheltered areas on rocks, cliffs, bushes, small trees, and kelp wracks, as well as man-made structures including jetties, the supports of guano platforms, wrecked ships and sometimes moored ships (Nelson 2005). The construction of the Bird Rock guano platform in Walvis Bay, Namibia, resulted in a range extension of 415 km (Crawford et al. 1994). The nest is constructed mostly from kelp and sticks, lined with finer material, and they are often used for several years in succession (Brown et al. 1982). A clutch usually consists of two or three eggs (but occasionally of up to five) (Williams and Cooper 1983), typically producing two chicks, normally from the first tow eggs laid (Williams and Cooper 1983). After leaving the nest, chicks form crèches near the colony. In response to disturbance, nestlings and fledglings will disperse and often enter the water where they are vulnerable to predation by the Cape Fur Seal Arctocephalus pusillus (Johnson et al. 2006).

Human disturbance, to which the species is very susceptible, is a major threat (Harrison et al. 1997). Mortality due to entanglement in fishing-line at nests is also a concern (T. Dodman in litt. 2000). A recent major oil-spill affected some colonies. Predation by Cape fur seals, particularly on fledglings, has escalated owing to the seal having become abundant in the Benguela ecosystem as a result of conservation measures (David et al. 2003). It is possible that this may impact the status of M. coronatus owing to its small global population size and limited distribution (David et al. 2003).

Conservation Actions Underway
Colonies at Mercury, Ichaboe, Lüderitz Bay and Possession Islands are partially protected, while those at Bird Island, West Coast National Park/Saldanha Bay Islands, Dassen Island, Robben Island and Sperrgebiet are fully protected (Barnes 1998). Management practices at breeding islands currently minimise disturbance. Selective culling of Cape fur seals that are observed killing seabirds has occurred since 1993. This has an immediate but short-term effect on seabird mortality rates (David et al. 2003). Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor the population through regular and simultaneous range-wide surveys. Ensure full protection of all breeding colonies (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Reduce the prevalence of discarded fishing-line. Enforce measures to prevent and mitigate oil-spills.

Barnes, K. N. 1998. The Important Bird Areas of southern Africa. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

Barnes, K. N. 2000. The Eskom Red Data Book of birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

Brown, L.H., Urban, E.K. and Newman, K. 1982. The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.

Crawford, R. J. M.; Shelton, P. A.; Brooke, R. K.; Cooper, J. 1982. Taxonomy, distribution, population size and conservation of the Crowned Cormorant, Phalacrocorax coronatus. Le Gerfaut 72: 3-30.

Crawford, R.J.M., Dyer, B.M. and Brooke, R.K. 1994. Breeding nomadism in southern African seabirds: constraints, causes and conservation. Ostrich 65(2): 231-246.

Crawford, R.J.M., Dyer, B.M. and Upfold, L. 1999. Seasonal pattern of breeding by Cape and Crowned Cormorants off western South Africa. Ostrich 70 (3/4): 193-195.

David, J.H.M., Cury, P., Crawford, R.J.M., Randall, R.M., Underhill, L.G. and Meyer, M.A. 2003. Assessing conservation priorities in the Benguela ecosystem, South Africa: analysing predation by seals on threatened seabirds. Biological Conservation 114: 289-292.

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Du Toit, M.; Boere, G. C.; Cooper, J.; de Villiers, M. S.; Kemper, J.; Lenton, B.; Petersen, S. L.; Simmons, R. E.; Whittington, P. A.; Byers, O. P. 2002. Conservation assessment and management plan for southern African seabirds.

Harrison, J. A.; Allan, D. G.; Underhill, L. G.; Herremans, M.; Tree, A. J.; Parker, V.; Brown, C. J. 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Johnsgard, P. A. 1993. Cormorants, darters, and pelicans of the world. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.

Johnson, R.L., Venter, A., Bester, M.N. and Oosthuizen, W.H. 2006. Seabird predation by white shark, Carcharodon carcharifas, and Cape fur seal, Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus, at Dyer Island. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 36(1): 23-32.

Nelson, J. B. 2005. Pelicans, cormorants and their relatives. Pelecanidae, Sulidae, Phalacrocoracidae, Anhingidae, Fregatidae, Phaethontidae. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Anderson, O., O'Brien, A., Pilgrim, J., Robertson, P., Taylor, J. & Ashpole, J

Dodman, T.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Microcarbo coronatus. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016.

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.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants)
Species name author (Wahlberg, 1855)
Population size 5800 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 20,900 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species