Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus)

Englishmen once kept and trained pelagic cormorants as personal fish catchers. A bird was released in the ocean with a ring around its neck to prevent it from swallowing any fish it caught. However, once several fish were brought back to its owner, the ring was removed to allow the cormorant to feed. This custom continues in Asia.


Smaller than Brandt's cormorant, at a length of about 76 cm, the pelagic cormorant is also distinguished by its thinner bill. In the breeding season, it has a double crest of feathers on its head and a red gular sac, or throat pouch. The white patch on its flanks and red colouration around the eyes to the base of the bill are not present in winter plumage.


This small cormorant is found in all areas of the north Pacific, from southern California to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, as well as off Siberia and Japan!


Not as social as other cormorants, the pelagic cormorant will share a cliff site with other individuals, but they do not nest in close proximity. Three to five eggs are incubated and avidly guarded by both parents. A parent clearly indicates that intruders are not welcome by jumping up and down, flapping its wings, and waving its head. Incubation lasts for up to 31 days, and the young are then fed for about two months after they hatch. To encourage their first flight, the parents restrict the delivery of food to the nest.

While diving for food, this cormorant not only eats fish but also invertebrates, such as shrimp or octopus that it finds close to the bottom, at depths of up to 30m, or in rocky reefs.