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Pelagic Cormorant

Phalacrocorax pelagicus ORDER: SULIFORMES FAMILY: PHALACROCORACIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Pelagic Cormorant is a small, slender cormorant of the Pacific Coast. Although it is exclusively marine in habits, its name is misleading, since it prefers inshore areas rather than the open ocean.

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Appearance

Gull-like
Gull-like
Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Large, dark water bird; small to medium-sized cormorant.
  • Long body and long, slender neck.
  • Slender bill is blunt or hooked at tip.

Immature Description

Immature brownish and lacks crests or glossy plumage of adult.

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Pelagic Cormorant Range Map
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Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    Pelagic Cormorant

    Adult
    • In North America restricted to Pacific Coast
    • Slender neck and noticeably thin, dark bill
    • All black plumage can show iridescent green and purple
    • Breeding adults have large white flank patch (not shown here)
    • © Mike Baird, Morro Bay, California, October 2008
  • Adult Pelagic breeding (left), adult Brandt

    Pelagic Cormorant

    Adult Pelagic breeding (left), adult Brandt's (right)
    • Pelagic is small with thin neck and very slender bill
    • Breeding Pelagic has small throat patch of red skin (hard to see) and two small crests
    • Brandt's is larger with heavier bill, buffy throat patch, and thicker neck
    • © lamoustique, San Luis Obispo County, California, June 2009
  • 2 breeding adults (left), Brandts (right)

    Pelagic Cormorant

    2 breeding adults (left), Brandts (right)
    • Small, glossy cormorant with thin neck
    • Very slender bill
    • Breeding adults have small red throat patch, two small crests
    • Brandt's is larger, has thicker neck, heavier bill, and buffy throat patch
    • © Mike Baird, Cuesta-by-the-Sea, California, March 2007

Similar Species

  • Double-crested Cormorant is larger, with a thicker bill, and has conspicuous pale facial skin, usually orange. Juvenile has uniformly pale upper breast.
  • Brandt's Cormorant is larger and stockier, with shorter tail, larger bill, blue or gray facial skin, and a pale patch at the base of the bill. Juvenile has pale breast with V-shaped pale mark.
  • Red-faced Cormorant very similar, but has larger, slightly yellowish bill and bare skin reaching above the bill. Immature nearly identical to immature Pelagic Cormorant except for thicker, paler bill.