Pelagic Cormorant

Phalacrocorax pelagicus

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.

Interesting Information

  • The Pelagic Cormorant uses its own guano to solidify its nest materials and to cement its nest to the cliff face.

  • The Pelagic Cormorant is among the least gregarious or social of the cormorants, nesting on steep cliffs along rocky and exposed shorelines, either in loose colonies or far from nearest neighbors.

  • It can dive as deep as 100 feet in coastal waters to feed on the sea bottom.

  • A group of cormorants has many collective nouns, including a "flight", "gulp", "rookery", "sunning", and "swim" of cormorants.


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.

  • Length Range: 66-74 cm (26-29 in)

  • Weight: 2040 g (72 oz)

  • Size: Large (16 - 32 in)

  • Color Primary: Green, Black, Sheen or Iridescence

  • Underparts: Black

  • Upperparts: Black with metallic green sheen.

  • Back Pattern: Solid

  • Belly Pattern: Solid

  • Breast Pattern: Solid

Sex Differences

Sexes similar.


Immature brownish and lacks crests or glossy plumage of adult.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Found in inshore coastal waters. Breeding and roost sites include rocky habitat along outer coast, bays, inlets, estuaries, rapids, coves, surge narrows, harbors, lagoons, and coastal log-storage sites.


Dives from the surface of the water and chases prey under water. Grabs fish in bill, without spearing it.


Fish and marine invertebrates.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Suliformes
Family: Phalacrocoracidae
Genus: Phalacrocorax
Species: Phalacrocorax pelagicus
    Subspecies: Phalacrocorax pelagicus pelagicus
  Phalacrocorax pelagicus resplendens

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.

Bird Sound

Low groans, croaks, or hisses.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution