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Pelagic Cormorant


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.


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.

Range Map Help

Pelagic Cormorant Range Map
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Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    Pelagic Cormorant

    • 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.



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