Though looking like nondescript black birds from afar, at close range the black plumage of a breeding adult Cape cormorant
, Phalacrocorax capensis
, has an iridescent sheen like with this bird. The eyes of this cormorant are one of the most striking in the bird kingdom with exquisite turquoise coloured irises surrounded by blue beads on the eyelids.
Cape Cormorants are endemic to southern Africa. They are abundant on the west coast but less common on the east coast of southern Africa. Cape Cormorants breed on offshore islands, cliffs, rocks and artificial structures such as jetties, platforms and even moored fishing vessels and yachts. They construct shallow nests using seaweed, sticks and guano, and nest in dense colonies at 'pecking distance' from one another. At Bird Island, Lamberts Bay, special breeding platforms have been erected for cormorants and both the Cape and white-breasted cormorants have made full use of this initiative, often building two nests on one platform.
There was no sign of this little critter earlier in the day... I can only assume that it was under the duvet...
Ringing records show that the Cape cormorant breeds up to 10 years into its life, making its lifespan possibly around 12 – 15 years. In spite of the last estimate of its population size being at 1 000 000, the IUCN classifies it as “Near Threatened” because of ongoing pollution from oil slicks, disturbance to stocks of its prey and pathogen or parasite increases. In a 15-year period the breeding population shrunk from 277 032 pairs to only 72 000 pairs by 1996.
These cormorants generally feed within 10-15 km of the shoreline, preying on Pelagic Goby, Cape Anchovy, Pilchard and Cape Horse Mackerel.