Pelagic Cormorant

Phalacrocorax pelgicus

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These distinctive-looking birds are common along the Oregon Coast where they frequently nest on the narrow rocky edges of the offshore islands. It’s in these rugged refuges that the cormorants lay their eggs in nests made only of collected seaweed and guano. They’re the smallest and most slender of the Pacific cormorants and when they fly with their necks outstretched, skimming just a few feet above the ocean waves, they can look almost like aircraft. Their bodies are covered with shiny, all black feathers with bright white patches on the flanks during the spring and summer. The juvenile bird is dark brown in color. The head has two feathery crests on top, although these are hard to see from a distance. The bill is long, narrow and has a distinctive hook at the tip.

Range and Habitat

In Oregon, Pelagic Cormorants are often seen along the coast, especially where there are an abundance of islands and rocky outcrops for nesting. They have a wide range across the Pacific, found as far west as Japan and south to central California.

Conservation Status

Common, although the birds are frequently accused of interfering with commercial fishing industries and have often been killed as a nuisance animal. They are protected by the Migratory Bird Act of 1914.

Photo Credit: US Bureau of Land Management