Brandt's CormorantPhalacrocorax penicillatus
- ORDER: Suliformes
- FAMILY: Phalacrocoracidae
The largest cormorant on the Pacific Coast, Brandt’s Cormorant is an expert diver that can swim deeper than 200 feet in pursuit of fish and shellfish. In addition to standard cormorant black, Brandt’s sports a vivid cobalt-blue throat patch and eyes during breeding season, along with wispy white feathers on the head. This species nests and forages in the California Current, an area of rich upwelling between British Columbia, Canada, and Baja California, Mexico. It is on the Yellow Watch List for species with restricted ranges.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Brandt’s Cormorants inhabit only marine coastlines and estuaries near the ocean, often gathering in large flocks and breeding in colonies. In some coastal cities, breeding Brandt’s Cormorants can be seen on the cliffs along scenic ocean walks. Because they can be far away over the water, a spotting scope can be helpful to distinguish this species from Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants. In flight, the heavy, kinked neck of Double-crested and very thin “broomstick” neck of Pelagic are notably different from the intermediate neck of Brandt’s.
- Cormorán Sargento (Spanish)
- Cormoran de Brandt (French)
- Cool Facts
- The name of Brandt's Cormorant commemorates Johann Friedrich von Brandt, a German zoologist working at the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the nineteenth century. His 1838 description of the species was based on a specimen taken by Russians exploring the Pacific coast of North America in the early 1800s. Brandt was also the first to describe the Red-legged Kittiwake and Spectacled Eider.
- The apparent closest relative to Brandt’s Cormorant is a species, now extinct, called Pallas’s or Spectacled Cormorant. It inhabited Bering Island off the Pacific coast of Russia and probably islands farther south (fossil bones were discovered in Japan in 2018). It was the largest cormorant species, weighing up to 14 pounds, and was discovered by German natural historian Georg Steller, in 1741, on the ill-fated second Kamchatka expedition led by Vitus Bering. It was hunted to extinction, with the last birds observed around 1850.
- The Brandt's Cormorant is the least vocal of the North American cormorants at the nest. It makes sounds that are audible only from a few feet away.
- In the main part of its range, from California to Washington, the Brandt's Cormorant is tied to the rich food sources associated with upwellings of the California Current. In the nonbreeding season, when the effects of this current diminish, populations redistribute along the coast, occurring where food is locally available.
- The oldest recorded Brandt's Cormorant was over 17 years, 10 months old.