Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Cape Cormorant

We are very fond of these large black birds that are so poised and upright! I think they hold the moral high ground too, as they are not scavengers of domestic food like the seagulls. (There is one seagull visiting in the painting.) They are known for forming long lines over the sea, rising higher and lower as they search for shoals of pelagic fish like pilchards.

Phalacrocorax Capensis is its Latin name and it refers to the chrome yellow patch on the throat at the base of the bill. This patch is brighter in breeding season when these usually quiet birds get quite vociferous, shouting gheeee and ghaaaa, where they breed on the islands off the West Coast.

We once found a dead cormorant that was ringed. The phone number was that of the Pretoria Zoo who referred us to the University of Cape Town. We learnt that the bird was ringed at Dassen Island 6 months previously! Why we care, is that on the IUCN Red list of threatened species Cape Cormorants are listed as "near threatened", the greatest dangers being oil pollution and predators as well as disease.

This was one of those absolutely wonderfully warm autumn days. I went overboard taking photos but will just show the one where they stretch their wings to dry in the sun after fishing. My palette was ruled by white and black, Indian red and Prussian blue for the grays in the clouds, rocks and birds. I added cerulean blue to this limited palette to paint the sky.


  1. I am enjoying your blog and your art! Lovely painting.The photograph on the bottom would also make a beautiful painting.

    Thank you,

  2. Hello Marie,
    I love these birds and we have many here, right down the street from me ,near and in the river. I have many photos of them from which I had planned to paint someday.
    I think the painting is very good, I like the limited palette (and think you may want to paint the scene below.. rock and sea and relfections.....that is a great shot!)

  3. Marie, I think these beautiful creatures are so unappreciated and feel so sad that they are on the endangered list. You have captured them well and I love your depiction of them sunning on the rocks!

  4. Lovely use of grays and greens. Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog.

  5. facinating! Love the information and the painting. I love your fish hanging picture too!

  6. Great painting Marie. Love the seagull skulking in the back-ground! I saw him even before I read your post. So typical of those opportunists! I love watching the Reed Cormorants sitting and drying their wings on dead branches in the water at Harties - and they don't even mind one getting quite close.

  7. Wow Marie, these are terrific! You have such a gift of chronicling the West Coast from boulders to birds! I really think you should do a book!

  8. Nice to be greeted this morning by a whole batch of comments!

    Thank you, Rosie!

    Cathyann, I wonder what your birds are called? Yes I love limited palettes, we did a lot of those at was that already 47 years ago or am I dreaming!

    I agree, Debbie! The count in the 1950's was 220,000. I wonder where it stands now?

    Thank you Karen and Susan!

    Maree, I will read up all about your cormorants over there. Maybe you will show them to me in person one day!

    Thank you, Liz, I wish I could have a book!And wow, I'd love that "from boulders to birds" for a title!

  9. I love your comment about the cormorant taking the moral high ground. Those gulls will eat anything! A sad story about finding the bird you did, Marie. Makes me feel bad. But you sure ended up with a beautiful painting and one that I suspect will sell quickly! What a gorgeous place in which you live!

  10. I think we all prefer cormorants to seagulls, for the reason you gave... they don't hang around hoping for part of your lunch.

    I'm with Liz in thinking you should do a book!

  11. Thank you for your kind comments, Sherry. I wondered whether I should include the story of the ringed bird. But at least now we know on which islands our cormorants are breeding.

    Thank you Charlene,After reading all my comments, I think they are found everywhere where there is an ocean or river, or so it seems!

  12. Hi Marie, Thank you for visiting my blog. I love your bird painting as well. And so fascinating to read about too.

  13. Guess I shouldn't have gone on a rant...

    I do love cormorants ... yours especially... and see them frequently around here!!

  14. I was at the beach a little while ago and there were volunteers there trying to collect pelicans because they were so poorly nourished that they were becoming dehydrated and dying. Apparently the plankton are dying out thus affecting all the fish who eat them and thus the birds, etc.

    Imagine the horror around the gulf states as our human stupidity and carelessness causes layers and layers of death and grief.

  15. Thanks for visiting, Michelle!

    Marian, it is so important that we use the forums that we come across to contribute to a theme, so I am glad you did! I appreciate your story of those amazing volunteers. Surely if man can interfere in Nature in a bad way, they should also interfere in good ways like feeding those wonderful birds when there is no other manner of survival! Thank you for the rest of your comments!

  16. You have captured the stance and attitude of these birds. We sometimes refer to them as dinosaurs in the way they dive and fly close to the water. Their feathers sometimes seem to be an afterthought of nature! Unfortunately in our little bay they are not very popular since they have a habit of cleaning out all the fish in an area and moving on. In an environmentally sensitive area like ours (next to a steel mill) we spend a lot of time trying to keep the water clean and full of fish.
    I love that you choose so many varied and interesting subjects to paint!

  17. Catherine, I guess because there are not many people here and the fish in this particular place is not needed, the birds can have their day. What surprised me most was that cormorants were so well-known all over the world! Thank you for yoyr regular comments!

  18. Marie,
    I just love the green cast in this painting. The sky is beautiuflly done and the light in the painting is exceptional. What interesting birds. We may have them here but I don't think that I have seen one...we have so many birds.


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