nd the best places to hunt Cormorants in Canada and discover the Cormorants' Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status. 

Brandt's Cormorant, Phalacrocorax penicillatus LC

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Brandt's Cormorant:

Brandt's Cormorant Range Map of Canada

Brants cormorant range map of canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca


The Brandt's cormorant is a Pacific coast marine bird of the cormorant family with a summer range along the western seaboard of the North American from Alaska to the Gulf of California. For Canada the highest concentrations of population of this species exists around Vancouver Island. Here its summer breeding grounds can be found on the west coast of Vancouver Island between Tofino and Ucluelet. These birds following the breeding season will winter either north of the Queen Charlotte Islands or head more southward towards California.

Since the Brandt's cormorant is an exclusive marine bird. It will found occupying kelp bed areas, large bays, estuaries, and  coastal lagoons along the Pacific’s coastal waters

Description of Brandt’s Cormorant:

Brandt's Cormorant

Brandt's Cormorant

Photo of Brant's Cormorant - By Alan Vernon (Brandt's cormorant in breeding plumage.) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Brandt's Cormorant occupies the Pacific Coast range along with Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants that can look the same. Identification becomes easier when you compare the region of their throats. The Pelagic Cormorant has a red coloured throat, the throat of the Double-Crested Cormorant is orange and the Brandt’s Cormorant has a Blue throat with a yellowish border.

Both males and female members of this species appear to be the same in that they have short black legs, webbed feet, a long shiny black body, a long thin neck, a long tail, and its bill can be from a dark grey colour to black in colour with a hook right at the tip.

The blue throat patch of adult Brandt’s is most noticeable during the breeding season. You can also notice that it has turquoise coloured eyes and additional white feathers are noticeable on both sides of its head and neck area as well as its back.

The Brandt's cormorant weighs in at about 4.6 lbs. (2 kg.).  They will measure 27.6–31.1 in. (70–79 cm.) in overall length and have a wingspan of 42.5 in (108 cm).

There is not much data out there as to its life expectancy but an encounter in Canada of a bird that was banded in Oregon was more than 16 years old.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Brandt’s Cormorant:

The webbed feet of the Brandt's cormorant help to make it a good diver and it uses that to its advantage diving as deep as 328 ft (100 m.) in their pursuit of fish that are close to the bottom. Besides deep diving they may be found looking for their next diner while swimming on or near the surface of the water.

Foraging activity may be solo or in a flock with other cormorants. It could also be near the shoreline or out to sea. Its strategy is to dive, pursue, and catch it prey. Its targeted prey could be a Pacific herring, rockfish, shrimp, or crab which it will grab (not spear) with its hooked bill. Side note: Off the coast of British Columbia the Pacific herring is the favoured prey.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Brandt’s Cormorant:

The Brandt's Cormorant population in British Columbia is very small and breeding season lasts a short time. This make data collection very difficult. To date only a couple of breeding colonies have been noted in British Columbia.

I have already mentioned that its Canadian summer breeding grounds are found on the west coast of Vancouver Island between Tofino and Ucluelet.

Nesting sites for the Brandt's Cormorant are located in colonies on the edge or top of a rocky island or cliff. It will also mostly likely be on the downwind side of the structure in order to maximize its protection from the elements. 

The courtship ritual of the Brandt’s Cormorant is somewhat unique. Here you will find that it is the male of the species that chooses a nesting site and puts on a display that shows off its throat by pointing its tail and head skyward at the same time. Once a female chooses him as a mate, he will then gather dry nesting material that may be in the form of weeds, seaweed, grass, sticks, or marine debris and bring it to the female. It is the female that builds the nest and cements it together with droppings.

The female normally lays a clutch of 3 to 6 pale blue eggs that will take about 30 days to hatch. Parents must take turns not only now but after the chicks are newly born as raids by Seagulls or other birds will result in a loss of the young. The hatchlings are born naked and helpless. Care of the chicks takes the form of protection from other predators, feeding by regurgitation, keeping chicks warm when it is cold, and shading them from the heat.

Once the chicks are large enough and mobile enough they will collect in a group that is called a crèches. The chick will leave the crèches and return to its original nesting site to be fed by its parents when its parents return from a fishing expedition. This allows the chicks parents to collectively collect food. And that food is fed to their chick through the process of direct regurgitation.

It is not known what these time lines are but again the banding studies suggest that there a rapid dispersal of young birds from the breeding area.

Status of Brandt’s Cormorant:

The Brandt’s Cormorant is listed as a bird of Least Concern on the BirdLife International (2011) IUCN Red List for birds.

Justification for this status is because the size of its population is large.

Threats of the Brandt’s Cormorant can come from man made sources like pesticides and oil pollution.

Care must be taken during the incubation period as any disturbance from boating, diving, fishing, or research activities can result in a colony deserting the breeding colony and a total loss in that year’s brood.

Double-crested cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus LC

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Double-crested Cormorant:

Double Crested Cormorant Range Map of Canada

Double Crested Cormorant Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca


The Double-crested Cormorant is a migrating native bird to Canada that has both Migrant and Breeding populations. Representation of this bird is across most of southern Canada with its highest concentrations in the Parries.

  • Migrant populations are found in south-eastern British Columbia, south western and north eastern Alberta, north western Saskatchewan, Western Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
  • More importantly its breeding populations are found in south-eastern Alberta, Southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, north-western Ontario around Lake of the Woods, Ontario – Sault St. Marie. to Sudbury, and scattered populations along the seaboards of the Maritimes and Quebec. 

This species of Cormorant is able to thrive in either a saltwater or a freshwater habitat and their needs are simple. They require an aquatic environment in which it can forage for food in, Because it is a diving bird, it requires areas in which it can perch and dry itself out. Islands, trees, large rocks, sandbars, and / or docks all serve the purpose quite nicely. Finally, breeding areas are normally in shoreline areas that have a good view of the landscape from which it can see predators approaching.

In summation; Inland freshwater lakes, marshes, ponds, rivers, and streams and in saltwater environments estuaries, bays, rocky coastlines and coastal islands are all prime habitat.

Description of Double-crested Cormorant:

Double-crested Cormorant

Double Crested Cormorant
Photo of Double-crested cormorant by: Linda Turner - Flickr

Of all the Cormorants in North America, the Double-crested Cormorant is the most common and widespread of them all.

There are five subspecies of double-crested cormorants of which:

  • P. a. albociliatus the Farallon cormorant and P. a. auritus occur in Canada.
  • P. a. cincinnatus the white-crested cormorant, P. a. floridanus the Florida cormorant and P. a. heuretus do not reside in Canada.

The Double-crested Cormorant is considered to be a large bird. Physical characteristics include the following facts. They have a lean body, a wedge-shaped tail, and short wings in relation to its body length. A long neck, short legs with black webbed feet and a long bill with a hook at the tip of the upper portion of its bill.

Size wise this cormorant ranges from 27.6 to 35.4 in. (70 to 90 cm) in length, a wingspan of 45 to 48 ins. (114 to 123 cm.), and will range in weight from 2.65 to 5.5 lbs. (1.2 to 2.5 kg.). The male of this species is slightly larger than the female.

 The body and wings of this bird consist of dark brown or black feathers that have a dull green or bronze sheen to them. It has impressively blue eyes and it also has two uniquely identifying orange patches at the base of its bill. One patch is located on its face between its eye and bill and the other patch is under its bill on its throat. During the breeding season these orange patches become more vibrant in colour and they develop two long feathered tuffs (called crests) on each side of their heads. The crests are lost after mating season.

This bird is quiet in that it does not have many calls and when they are used for communication they are either used in acts of aggression or to attract a mate. Physical displays seem to be limited to the breeding period and the process of males attracting a mate.

The life expectancy of a wild Double-crested cormorant is about 6.1 years of age but there is a recording of 17.75 and 19.5 years of age.

Like most cormorants, you may notice members of this subgroup sitting in areas where it can spread its wings out. Most thoughts here are that behaviour is done in order to dry out its feathers as this species dose not possess the oily feather coating that most water birds do.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Double-crested Cormorant:

This species sits low in the water when it swims and normally you only see its head and neck. This can make it difficult to distinguish from a Loon and that is done by looking for the angle at which it holds its head. The Cormorant holds its head and bill on an upward angle.

They generally forage for food in water that is less than 26.25 ft. (8 m.) deep, less than 3.1 miles (5 km) from shore and less than 12 miles (20 km.) from roosting sites.

The strategy or tactic that this bird uses is to dive underwater, then chase and catch fish that are normally less than 5 ins. (13 cm.) long with their bill. This may be done either singularly or in a flock. The later being the norm when a large school of bait fish are set upon. This is also where the hook at the tip of its bill along with specially adapted muscles in its bill help this bird hold onto a caught fish.

The Double-crested Cormorant will usually consume its smaller prey while underwater but larger fish are normally brought to the surface where it will shake the fish or hammer it on the surface of the water before consuming it.

Because this bird consumes mostly fish, the Double-crested Cormorant is considered to be a carnivore. The average cormorant weighs about 4.2 lbs. (1.9 kg) and will consume about 25% of its body weight in fish each day. That relates to a food intake of 1.0 lbs. (0.48 kg.) daily.

Its primary diet is that of small schooling fish but it will also forage and eat crabs, crayfish, eels, frogs, insects, mollusks, shrimp, salamanders, and snakes.

A Great Lakes survey found that this bird consumed mostly Alewife, Rainbow Smelt and Yellow Perch. But some numbers of White Suckers, Sunfish, Crappie, Bass and Sticklebacks were also consumed.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Double-crested Cormorant:

The breeding season of the Double-crested Cormorant begins in April and will last until the end of July. The peak of the season occurs in May, June, and July. This timing does vary will geographic location and in general southern colonies begin to nest earlier than those in the northern sectors of their range. Egg production in the region of the Great Lake is in late April to early May.

This bird is very sociable and normally breeds in colonies that can contain up to three thousand mated pairs.

The male arrives first and will choose a nesting site that is undisturbed and has an available food supply nearby. The site may be in a tree near water. It may also be on a rocky inlet, cove, island, cliff ledge, or cliff top. Courtship displays are performed by the male in an effort to attract a mate. This display may be a “wing-waving display” that is intended to show off his throat patch or it may be a courtship dance on the water where he tries to present gifts of nesting material to the potential mate.  

Once the female accepts the male the bond is set for that year and the couple begin to construct a new nest or repair an old nest on the chosen site (which is normally on the ground) with sticks, twigs, and other vegetation that is scavenged from nearby. It is normally the female that builds and protects the nest. It is the male that finds the nesting material and brings it to her. The couple will not collectively leave the nest at this point as other cormorant couples will steal their nesting material. 

Once the nest is complete the female may lay anywhere from 1 to 7 eggs (the average is 4) that are light blue in colour and partly covered with a white chalky covering.  It will take the female anywhere from 1 to 3 days to lay these eggs and the couple take turns incubating them for an additional 25 to 28 days. This species also has an uncommon habit of wrapping the webs of their feet around their eggs in order to incubate them. Egg hatching does not occur all at one time and there appears to no pattern in the hatching process.

The newly hatched chicks are altricial at birth and require constant care by both parents. The parents will take turns foraging and feeding each chicks regurgitated food 2 to 6 times per day. The parents are also required to give them water on hot days by pouring the water from their beak into the chicks open mouth.

Through out the nesting, hatching, and rearing process of the chicks, the couple will defend the eggs and young against predation by large gulls, crows, and ravens that see either the eggs or chicks as a potential meal. It should be noted that the defensive territory that the couple tends to protect is quite small and is generally limited to about a 1.5 ft. (0.5 m.) radius around the nest site. Because of the predation issues one parent will always stand guard during this rearing process.

It is also noted that the timing at which couple nest in a colony may vary considerably. For example, it is normal in June to see new nests with no eggs, nests with eggs reaching full incubation, and nests with chicks. All of these nesting stages in the same colony at the same time.

The development process of the chicks is fast. It only take them 3 to 4 weeks to develop their wing feathers large enough for flight and in tens weeks. They are able to fly at 6 weeks or age and will be diving at weeks 6 to 7. By the time they reach 10 weeks old they will be completely independent of their parents.

Once the chick reaches full independence it will not be until it is at least 2 years old and more likely that they are 3 years of age that they will mate. 

Status of Double-crested Cormorant

This bird was assessed by Birdlife International to be a species of Least Concern on the Red List in the year 2012. Justification for this listing was because of its widespread range, large population, and the fact that in some areas of its population are actually on the rise.

It does suffer from some natural predation that comes in the form of  predation of cormorant eggs and chicks are from Coyotes, foxes and raccoons. Aviator predators include Gulls, crows and jays and grackles. While bald eagles and great horned owls may take adults and chicks alike.

Great cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo LC

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Great Cormorant:

Great Cormorant Range Map of Canada

Great Cormorant Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca


The Great cormorant is one of this planet’s most widespread species of cormorant.  They are found in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and along the north eastern coastal regions of North America.

They are a native bird to Canada that prefers a shallow aquatic habitats and it can be found as a year-round permanent resident along the Western seaboard of Nova Scotia, Northern end of Cape Breton Island, Southern Seaboard of Newfoundland, Eastern shores of the Gaspe Bay Peninsula, and the southern shore of Quebec in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Breeding colonies can also be found along the north shore of Prince Edward Island and Anticosti Island.

Those birds that do not stay the winter will migrate and winter south from North Carolina southern Florida, Louisiana. Some will go inland and winter on Lake Ontario.

Throughout its global range you will find it in freshwater, brackish and saline inland wetlands Here in Canada, with the exception of Lake Ontario, you will find that it takes up residence primarily along select areas of the marine coast of Maritimes.  Generally nesting sites require a rocky shore with cliffs or small islands that are adjacent to shallow waters in which it can forage for food. This does not however rule out the fact that it will use trees to nest in as it does in Prince Edward Island. Here it has a tradition of using low dense, stunted spruce for nesting in.

Description of Great Cormorant:

Great Cormorant

Great Cormorant
Photo By: - Thomas Quine - Flickr

The plumage of the Great Cormorant is black in colour but it can appear to have a blue or greenish glow to it.  The surface of its wings can appear to have a brownish black colouring especially when its wings are extended. In the area of its throat,  males  have an orange patch directly under its eye while the females throat is a scarlet colour. During the mating season they develop a whitish colouring before the throat patch all the way to the tip of its bill and after it to create a check patch. It also has white thigh patches during the breeding season. The bill of this bird is a dark grey and its webbed feet along with its legs are black. Finally it possesses a long neck that is generally regardless of activity held in a hook or snake like fashion.

Immature members of this species appear to be a mottled brown colour and their throat patch has more of a yellow colour to it.

The Great Cormorant has through evolution developed the ability to rotate their eyes, this is physical adaptation the most other birds do not have.

Both males and female Great Cormorants look similar but the male is 5 to 10% longer than the female and its body weight can be 20% heavier.  The physical size of this bird ranges from 33 to 35.4 ins. (84 to 90 cm) in length, a wingspan of 51.2 to 63 ins. (130 to 160 cm.) and a body mass of 5.7 to 8.2 lbs. (2.6 to 3.7 kg.)

Communication by Great cormorants is through the use a wide variety of rough and harsh calls as well as posturing. Calls and posturing displays are mainly used for the purpose of mating rituals, threatening, and in defence of its territory during the nesting season.

Exposure, predation, lack of sustenance, and falling out of nesting sites from cliffs takes it toll on young birds. However, studies of this species indicate that mortality rates are low for this bird and the chances of an adult surviving are in the range of 72 to 80% after their first year.

The oldest wild great cormorant recorded in Canada was a specimen that was banded in Cape Whittle, Quebec in 1937. It was found again in Cape Breton 15 years later.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Great Cormorant:

This species of Cormorant will fly up to 19.88 miles (32 km.) from its nesting colony in order to forage for food. It periodically will form a flock where it is foraging but most times it forages alone.

Because it feeds on fish it is considered a carnivore. This bird is an excellent swimmer with a foraging strategy to match. Its strategy is to pursue its prey by starting with a dive from the surface of the water, then chase and catch schooling fish or individual fish that live on the bottom. The preferred size of fish is less than 7.87 in. (20 cm.) in length and the species of fish that it may catch include Sculpin, Capelin, Cod, Common goby, Cunner, Eel, Gulf flounder, Halibut, Needlefish, Pollack, Sole, and Turbot, Its dives normally last about 1 minute in duration and the depths to which it dives while foraging is normally in the area of 30 ft. (9.1 m.) from surface of water. But this bird is capable of diving to a depth of 114 ft. (35 m.),

This marine diving bird does not have oil in its feathers. It has long been thought that the act of spreading its wings after foraging for fish was a method in which it would dry out its wings. The thought is emerging that it may be a means by which it uses to help digest its meal of fish.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Great Cormorant:

The Canadian breeding season for this bird is a yearly event that occurs mainly in late May to early July. This is when the birds congregate into large colonies that consist of less than 200 paired birds. But they are not alone as they will quite often share their breeding colony with other species of birds that includes other types of cormorants and gulls that are also breeding.

Coastal breeding colonies are situated on rocky ledges, cliffs, and islands. Actual nest sites within these structures may be on the ground amongst the boulders, in a depression or even in a tree. The nest itself will be constructed of sticks, seaweed, and reeds and then lined with grass and feathers. Trees that used for nesting by the Great cormorant have the unfortunate fate of dying within 3 years because of the acidic content of this bird’s droppings. Also, it is common for a pair of mated birds to return to the same nesting site next year especially if the breeding process is successful.

The Great Cormorant may not be monogamous through out its life time but it does practise monogamy in the year that it mates in and 11% of the time in subsequent years. Like other Cormorants it is the male that chooses a nesting site and through a display of wing-waving tries to attract and persuade a female to choose him and his nesting site.

The colour of the Great cormorants eggs are bluish green with a chalky appearance and the female may lay a clutch of 1 to 7 eggs but clutch sizes of 3 to 5 eggs are the average. From this point in time both parents take turns incubating the eggs for the next 28 to 31 days in a manner that is much like the Penguin in that they place the eggs on top of their feet and warm the egg with its breast. If a pair looses its clutch of eggs early in the year they will attempt to relay a new clutch. But quite often eggs that are laid after June are abandoned by the parents.

Newly hatched chicks are born blind and have no feathers. It will not be until they are about 6 days old that they will gain a coat of down. For their first 10 days of life the chicks need constant care. Besides feeding, they need to be kept cool from the heat, warm from the cold, and protection from predation. So it is not surprising to see that at least one parent is with them at all times for the first two weeks of their life.

Liquified regurgitated food is the nourishment that the young hatchlings receive at first from their parents. However it is only a few days before they begin to take solid food. In the early days of life the parents place the food into the mouths of the hatchlings but as they grow. The chicks put their heads into the mouth of the parent whick is regurgitating the food from its pharyngeal pouch.

It is at about this time that mortality of the weakest chicks occurs. The stronger hatchlings begin to be feed more and it a youngster is not strong enough to compete for the food that is presented. It will perish.

It only takes 45 to 55 days for the youngsters to fledge and by the middle of August the nesting site is vacant. This is not a time of full independence yet. The young will continue to be fed by its parents at communal roosting sites for another 60 to 90 days as the time for a chick to reach full independence ranges from 105 to 145 days.

For both male and female juvenile Great Cormorants the next milestone in their life is mating time. But that is not until it is typically 3 years of age, but that too can range from 2 to 4 years.

Status of Great Cormorant

The Great Cormorant was assessed by BirdLife International in 2012 to be on the Red List Category as a bird of Least Concern.

Justification for the Great Cormorant’s assessment comes from several factors.

  • The population appears to be on the rise.
  • The population is large.
  • This bird has an extremely large range.

Predation for this bird is at its highest while it is still in the egg and prior to fledging. The main predation as this time comes from other birds like the crow, seagull and bald eagle. While island colonies may not have to contend with the Red Fox. Vulpes vulpes can be a concern for land based nesting colonies.

Additionally, mankind should also be cited as a predator through his/her hunting activities.

Pelagic cormorant, Phalacrocorax pelagicus LC

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Pelagic Cormorant:

Pelagic Cormorant Range Map of Canada

Pelagic Cormorant Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca


Here in Canada there are two recognized subgroups of the Pelagic Cormorant.

  • P.p.pelagicus (Northern Pelagic Cormorant) is a blue-listed subspecies that occupies the territory from the Queen Charlotte Islands northward during the summer. But in the winter it may be found along the south coast. As a blue-listed species it is considered to be vulnerable in this region.
  • P.p. resplendens (Southern Pelagic Cormorant) is a yellow-listed subspecies that is considered to be of concern by British Columbia because of their small range and low numbers in the province. It is found along B.C.’s south coast and northward. Of the two, this species following Bergmann’s Rule is the smaller of the two.

You will find this bird taking up breeding residence along the inner and outer marine coastal areas of British Columbia. With the highest concentrations of this bird (55%) occurring in the Strait of Georgia around the Mittlematch Island that is located between Vancouver Island and the mainland coast of British Columbia.

It is a sociable bird and may nest on a site by itself but generally it forms small colonies of same species nesting birds intermingling with other species of cormorants. You may also find Murres, Common Eiders, Tufted Puffins, and gulls in the mix. It has a preference for sheer cliffs that contain narrow ledges. The site must also be adjacent to and fronting on coastal waters and be higher than 32 ft. (10 m.). It rarely nests up an inlets and is never found adjacent to freshwater.

Foraging activity may place in a sheltered bays or inlets in areas that contain a rock bottom that is less than 328 ft. (100 m.) in depth. It may also be found as far as 0.62 to 1.24 miles (1 to 2 Km.) from shore in search of non-schooling fish.

Description of Pelagic Cormorant:

Pelagic Cormorant

Pelagic Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant - By Ingrid Taylar (Flickr: Pelagic Cormorant Family) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The pelagic cormorant may also be referred to as the Baird's cormorant and is a small member of the Cormorant family.

A full grown adult will have an overall length of only 25 to 35 in (64 to 89 cm), a wingspan of about 39 inches (100 cm), and a weight of 3.25 to 5.375 lbs. (1.5–2.4 kg). The males and females of the species appear the same but males are a little larger in size.

The Pelagic Cormorant has a long thin bill with a hook at the tip and its feet besides being webbed are black. It appears in an all black plumage that has a green or purple shimmering colour for most of the year. However, in the breeding season it adorns itself with a short crest on top of its head and another on the back of its neck. It also develops white thighs and scattered white hair like feathers on its head and neck. The bare skin under its eyes also becomes a vivid magenta colour during the mating season.

Juveniles don’t have the sheen that a mature bird does and appears to be dark brown in colour with a lighter brown colour on its belly.

The Pelagic Cormorant’s feathers are not waterproof and you may see it preening and grooming its with oil that is obtained from its uropygial gland that is located at the base of its tail.

Finally in order to manoeuvre efficiently under water, evolutionary development has given this cormorant a short wing span.  But the price for this is paid by a reduced ability to fly and has to work harder at it.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Pelagic Cormorant:

The Pelagic Cormorant is a carnivore that feeds primarily on non schooling fish that are close to or over the bottom of the sea floor. It visits and dives on the rocky reefs or kelp beds in hopes of catching fish like the Pacific Sandlance, Pacific Staghorn, Pacific Herring, Sculpin, Shiner Perch, Rockfish, Sand Eels, Gunnels, and Pacific Salmon. It will also forage on crabs, shrimps, marine worms, and shrimp like amphipods. The strategy of this bird is to swim and locate its prey. It will then dive and chase its intended victim underwater by using its webbed feet for propulsion and steering itself with its wings.

It may form a school to feed, especially when the prey is a large school of Pacific Herring. But typically it is a lone forager and dives in harbours, lagoons, inlets, bays and coves along the sheltered coastal waters. It is capable of diving up to 100 feet (30.5 meters) in depth and the prey that it catches will depend upon the species in that local.

This species expends a lot of energy while swimming, diving, and flying. Because of this it is not able to store body fat which answers the question as to why it does not travel far from shore or its nesting / roosting sites..

Breeding and Reproduction of the Pelagic Cormorant:

The Pelagic Cormorant is a colonial nester that will share its nesting site with other species. Because this cormorant is smaller it is unable to defend its nest against either aerial or land based predation. It has adapted a strategy of using high, steep, and inaccessible rocky cliffs that face water to deter predators. Here is where it will build its nest on a narrow ledge of the cliff.

In British Columbia the breeding season and egg laying starts in mid-May and may last until early August for those birds that have lost their clutch of young and are renesting.

Like other cormorants the male chooses a nesting site. The male will then attract a mate with an elaborate display of courtship. Once bonding occurs the pair will being construction of the nest. Building material for the nest consists mainly of grass, seaweed and marine debris. It is saucer shaped and the nest is bound together and held in place by it fecal excrement.  It the bonded pair find a nesting site that they like. They may return to it for the rest of their lives. Each year the nest is repaired and built upon as needs dictate. These nests can obtain a height of 5 ft (1.5 m).

The female may lay a clutch of 2 to 7 eggs but 3 to 4 eggs are more of the norm. The pair will take turns incubating the eggs between their feet and belly for an average of 30 to 32 days. But it could be as little as 27 days or as high as 37 days. The chicks only weigh about 1 ounce (35 g.) and are born altricial. Should the pair loose the clutch they may attempt to renest if it is not too late in the mating season. From this point on, the success of the brood developing is dependant upon predation and the cormorant’s food source.

With both parents feeding the chicks and it is not long before they develop sooty-gray coloured downy feathers and by the age of 4 to 8 weeks (average is 7) they are ready to leave the nest.

Juveniles become sexually mature at the age of 2 to 3 years and the lifespan of this bird in the wild can be as high as 17.8 years.

Status of Pelagic Cormorant

The Pelagic Cormorant was assessed by BirdLife International in 2012 to be on the Red List as a species of Least Concern. This is a global assessment and although globally this bird is not threatened. The province of British Columbia assesses it as follows.

  • P.p.pelagicus (Northern Pelagic Cormorant) is listed as a blue-listed subspecies and is considered to be vulnerable.
  • P.p. resplendens (Southern Pelagic Cormorant) is listed as a yellow-listed subspecies that is considered to be of concern by British Columbia because of their small range and low numbers in the province.

Arial predators of the Pelagic Cormorant include crows, large gulls, and raptors which prey primarily on the eggs and chicks during the breeding season. Foxes and river otters are land based predators that this cormorant has to contend with.

Overall bald eagles, food supply, and weather conditions play an important role in this birds reproductive cycle. 








Identifying Cormorants In Coastal, British Columbia

- https://www.bsc-eoc.org/volunteer/bccws/Resources/CormorantIDGuide.pdf

Brandt's cormorant

  • Hipfner, M. 2015. Brandt's Cormorant in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.).The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. http://www.birdatlas.bc.ca/accounts/speciesaccount.jsp?sp=BRCO&lang=en [10 Aug 2017]
  • Alaska Seabird Information Series - https://www.fws.gov/alaska/mbsp/mbm/seabirds/pdf/brco.pdf

Double Crested Cormorant - The rise of the Double-crested Cormorant on the Great Lakes:


Double-crested cormorants  from http://eol.org/pages/1048642/details

  • © Smithsonian Institution
  • © International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
  • © WoRMS for SMEBD
  • © The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
  • © NatureServe


Great Cormorant from http://eol.org/pages/1048641/details

  • © Copyright Ecomare
  • © Wildscreen
  • © Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle. Service du Patrimoine nature
  • © The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
  • © NatureServe
  • © International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
  • © WoRMS for SMEBD
  • © SPIRE project

Great Cormorant - Canadian Atlas of Bird Banding


Pelagic Cormorant from http://eol.org/pages/1048644/details

  • © International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
  • © NatureServe
  • © Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

Pelagic Cormorant - Canadian Atlas of bird Banding



BC Conservation Data Centre: Species Summary - Phalacrocorax pelagicus


Species Ranking in British Columbia


National Park Service



Article Images

  • Brant's Cormorant - By Alan Vernon (Brandt's cormorant in breeding plumage.) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Double-crested cormorant - Linda Turner - Flickr

  • Great Cormorant - Thomas Quine - Flickr

  • Red-faced Cormorant - Isacc Sanchez - Flickr

  • Pelagic Cormorant - By Ingrid Taylar (Flickr: Pelagic Cormorant Family) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Background Images

  • Great Cormorant - Rob Zweers - Flicker

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