The Brandt’s Cormorant is the largest of the three species that nest on the island but is only slightly bigger than the double-crested. It is a slender bird in flight and has a straight neck, a small head, and a rapid wing beat. The throat patch in pelagic cormorants is blue and in the summer it has two white flank patches.
The Brandt’s Cormorant is a widespread breeder and breeds all over Vancouver Island, as well as most other islands on the south coast of B.C. Brandt’s Cormorants live along open, windswept coasts. They nest along with other cormorants and other seabirds on steep, remote cliffs where they’re safer from predators. Brandt’s Cormorants nest in small colonies. These colonies are situated on islands, narrow cliff ledges, steep slopes, and other relatively inaccessible locations.
Brandt’s Cormorants hunt alone, often diving into heavy surf for crabs, worms, and small fishes. Though they typically dive in shallow water along the shores, they also can make very deep dives, sometimes to 50 m or more.
These cormorants feed largely on fish of little commercial value, though in times past they were harassed by fishers who blamed the birds for depleting their catches.
Safe nesting sites are becoming scarcer for cormorants and other seabirds on the south island but there are still plenty of safe sites on the north and east island. Off of Campbell River, you can find the Mitlenatch Island Marine Park where there are many nesting birds every year. Look to copper bluffs for more of these birds.
Brandt’s Cormorants will use one nest for several years, piling up seaweed, grass, and ocean debris until the mound is five to six feet high.