Reed Cormorant ( (Microcarbo africanus)

It is a small, barred-backed cormorant, which is widespread and a common sight in freshwater bodies. Adult birds are blacking, accentuated by a short dark crest above their bills. Juveniles and immature birds sport duller underparts. While they occur in their habitats along with the Great Cormorant, Reed Cormorants are distinguishable through their smaller built, red eyes, and relatively longer tails that also earned their other name, the Long-Tailed Cormorants.

Read further to know more about the Reed Cormorant.

What is a Reed Cormorant?

Reed Cormorant (Microcarbo africanus) or Long-Tailed Cormorant is a bird belonging to the Phalacrocoracidae’s cormorant family. It is resident in sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, but may also take seasonal movements. They occur in nearly all freshwater habitats, except for fast-flowing rivers and streams.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Suliformes

Family: Phalacrocoracidae

Genus: Microcarbo

Species: M. africanus

Reed Cormorant Physical Description

Reed Cormorant can grow around 19.68 to 23.63 inches or 50 to 60 centimeters, weigh about 680 grams, with a wingspan of 31.49 to 35.43 inches or 80 to 90 centimeters.

These birds are mainly black, with a white throat, and yellowish skin around their yellow bill. It has a relatively long tail, a tiny head crest, and a yellow or red face patch. Meanwhile, their wing tetrices have a silvery tone. During the breeding season, adults have a green gloss on their plumage. Juveniles are browner and have a whitish throat and belly, with some buff streaky edges.

Where can they be spotted?

Reed Cormorants breeds in much of sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, thriving in various freshwater habitats except for fast-flowing rivers and streams. They commonly occur on those with gradually sloping shores, slow-moving waters, around lakes. However, it may also reside in sheltered coastal waters, and temporarily flooded areas. These birds prefer water bodies with ample vegetation and budding trees for nesting.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Reed Cormorant

Reed Cormorants feed primarily on fish growing up to 20 centimeters long but may consume crabs, mollusks, and frogs. It may also take larger insects, such as beetles and dragonfly larvae. Like its cousin, it hunts prey through the water while using its large webbed feet for propelling. It can stay underwater for about 40-45 seconds, about less than two meters deep.

It can be found solitarily or in small flocks outside the breeding season. However, they aggregate to communal roosts in larger groups, and their flight is easily noticeable over coastal mangroves and rivers at night.

Reed Cormorants are monogamous and will form life-long bonds with their partners. They can be seen breeding colonially with other birds, such as egrets, herons, and darters. Breeding season differs depending on the range, and egg-laying may occur throughout the year, peaking between October to April in sub-Saharan Africa.

The male reed cormorant selects the nesting ground. A typical courtship antic includes moving its head back and forth while beating its wings. The nest is often built on large reedbeds, tree branches over waters, and rarely on the ground. Nest materials used are sticks, dead reeds, lined with grass and leaves.

The female reed cormorant lays a clutch of 3-4 eggs, which both sexes will incubate for about 23-34 days. The chicks are naked after hatching but will soon grow a black down. Both parents will feed and tend to the broods, which will fledge in about 28-35 days, and eventually dispersing from the family group four weeks after fledging.

Reed Cormorants’ population size greatly benefitted from dam constructions, creating them newer habitats. However, they are often hunted due to their effects on fish stock. While their population trend is declining, they don’t meet the thresholds and are still evaluated as Least Concern (LC) under the IUCN Red List.



Chobe National Park

Linyanti Swamp

Mashatu Game Reserve

Okavango Delta

Moremi Game Reserve



Addo Elephant National Park

Cape Peninsula National Park

Hluhluwe Game Reserves

Kalahari Gemsbok National Park

Knysna Lagoon

Kruger National Park

Madikwe Game Reserve

St Lucia Wetlands


Caprivi Region


Etosha National Park

Namib-Naukluft National Park

Skeleton Coast



Lechwe Plains

Lower Zambezi

South Luangwa

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park




Lake Kariba

Mana Pools

Matobo Hills

Victoria Falls


Reed Cormorant