Phalacrocorax gaimardi 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Suliformes Phalacrocoracidae

Scientific Name: Phalacrocorax gaimardi (Lesson & Garnot, 1828)
Common Name(s):
English Red-legged Cormorant
Spanish Chuita, Cormorán gris
Taxonomic Source(s): SACC. 2005 and updates. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #
Identification information: 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.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Frere, E., Gandini, P. & Millones, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Anderson, O., Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Lascelles, B., Moreno, R., Pilgrim, J., Sharpe, C.J.
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.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Phalacrocorax gaimardi occurs on the coasts of southern South America: 17,600-18,300 breeding birds in the Pacific from Isla Foca, Peru, to Punta Elefante, Peninsula de Taitao, Chile. 1,800-2,000 breeding birds in the Atlantic from Bahia Sanguinetto to the Monte León National Park, Santa Cruz province, Argentina,  and occasionally some individuals to the strait of Magellan (Zavalaga et al. 2002; Frere et al. 2004, 2005; Millones et al. 2015). 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 distributed along 40 breeding sites (Frere et al. 2004). Then, during 2010-2012, 10 unsurveyed sites were described and the known population increased to 8,193-8,393 breeding pairs (Barros et al. 2014). 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). In Argentina breeding  population are found in 13 localities of Santa Cruz Province, and about 93% of this  population breeds near coastal cities (Gandini and Frere 1995; Frere et al. 2005), where coastal development is increasing rapidly (Gandini and Frere 1995). Between 1990 and 2002 the breeding population of Argentina showed a declined of 32% (Millones et al. 2015). However, during the last 10 years the Argentinian breeding population showed a moderate increase, reaching nowadays the abundance of early ‘90 (Frere and Millones pers. comm.). The world population is now estimated at 40,000 individuals (Frere in litt. 2007). Continued population declines may lead to this species being uplisted to Vulnerable. 

Countries occurrence:
Argentina; Chile; Peru
Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:4280000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The world population has been estimated at 40,000 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.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:1-89

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: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).

Systems:Terrestrial; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):8.8
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): 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 San Julián (1,164 mature individuals) and Puerto Deseado (588 mature individuals) (Gandini and Frere 1995; Millones et al. 2015), where there is an intensive  fisheries activity and traffic 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 [top]

Conservation Actions: 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 along its geographic range. Assess the impact of the proposed industrial harbour in Argentina and recommend appropriate action. Monitor populations to identify changing trends, particularly in Chile and Peru. 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. 

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Phalacrocorax gaimardi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22696898A93591504. . Downloaded on 17 August 2018.
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