Pelagic Cormorant

Pelagic Cormorant, Vancouver Island, BC

The pelagic cormorant is the smallest of the three species that nest on the island. 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 red and in the summer it has two white flank patches.

The pelagic cormorant is a widespread breeder and breeds all over Vancouver Island, as well as most other islands on the south coast of B.C. Numbers have been declining in recent years though and studies are being done to find out why we will keep you posted on this.

Pelagic 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. Pelagic Cormorants nest in small colonies. These colonies are situated on islands, narrow cliff ledges, steep slopes, and other relatively inaccessible locations.

Pelagic cormorants hunt alone, often diving into heavy surf for crabs, worms, and small fishes. Though they often dive in shallow water along the shores, they also can make very deep dives, sometimes to 50 m or more.

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.

Pelagic cormorants will use one nest for several years, piling up seaweed, grass, and ocean debris until the mound is five to six feet high.

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