Pelagic Cormorant

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Pelagic Cormorant

Phalacrocorax pelagicus
  • ORDER: Suliformes
  • FAMILY: Phalacrocoracidae
Basic Description

Among the cormorants of North America’s Pacific Coast, the Pelagic is a small and slender species that flies with a thin, straight neck often compared to a broomstick. Breeding adults are black with glossy purple-green highlights. They have a coral-red throat patch and neat white patches on the flanks. They nest on coastal cliffs and forage in rocky water, rarely traveling far from shore despite their name. Unlike Brandt’s and Double-crested, Pelagic Cormorants are not very gregarious and are usually seen as single birds or pairs.

More ID Info
image of range map for Pelagic CormorantRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

Pelagic Cormorants are widespread along the Pacific coast and often occur with Brandt’s and Double-crested, where they are usually the least numerous of the three species. Look for Pelagic’s much thinner neck (straight in flight), slighter bill, narrower wings, and rather long tail. To find them, patiently watch the ocean as cormorants move from roosting to foraging areas, studying differences in size and shape between the three species. During the breeding season, Pelagic Cormorants often nest on cliffs quite close to coastal roads and paths, allowing close views.

Other Names
  • Cormorán Pelágico (Spanish)
  • Cormoran pélagique (French)
  • Cool Facts