Brandt's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)

Brandt's cormorant often adopts a "spread eagle" pose - wings outstretched - after diving for fish, to allow its wings to dry.


At almost 90 cm in length, this large, long-necked seabird is a uniform dark colour except in the breeding season when it has a dull blue gular sac or throat pouch, lined with light brown. Its bill is long and slender, with a hooked tip, and is dark in colour. Young Brandt's cormorants can be recognized by their brown coloured breast with a pale Y shaped marking.


This strictly Pacific species is found from southern British Columbia to southern California. Breeding occurs throughout its range, commonly on small islands west of Vancouver Island. Most individuals spend winter in the more southern areas of its range, although some remain in southern coastal British Columbia.


The occurrence of this cormorant generally depends on available nesting material and its preference for flat-bottomed areas of the coast. Brandt's cormorant nests on broad, flat ledges of steep cliffs, and uses grass, weeds and seaweed as construction materials. Four pale blue eggs are laid in each clutch. Currently, not much else is known about Brandt's cormorant breeding habits.

This exceptional swimmer is well adapted to diving. Its heavy weight and dense plumage allow it to stay underwater for over two minutes at a time, and to dive to over 30 m in depth. Unlike petrels and puffins, cormorants use their powerful legs and feet for underwater propulsion. Its amazing diving ability makes this bird an excellent underwater hunter, able to catch fast swimming-fish, such as herring.