Pelagic Cormorant

Urile pelagicus
Range Map

We find Pelagic Cormorants along inshore coastal waters. Their North American range extends from Alaska to the Baja peninsula in Mexico. But their normal breeding range is from the Central California coast and north. Some of these birds may nest in coastal northern Alaska and across the Bering Strait to the Siberian coast.

When seen in flight, look for a white patch between the wings and tail. These are the smallest of all North America cormorants, and their bills are proportionally smaller than other cormorant species.

Modern taxonomists recognise two subspecies of Pelagic Cormorant:

  • U. p. pelagicus breeds on the northern Pacific coasts from and east through the Commander and Aleutian Islands and in Alaska to western Canada. The western Pacific populations winter south in Japan and eastern China.
  • U. p. resplendens lives in British Columbia (Canada) to Baja California (Mexico).

This bird was formerly classified under the genus Phalacrocorax. But in 2014, along with two other species of cormorant, were reclassified to the genus Urile.

My encounters with Pelagic Cormorants have mainly been of birds in flight along the San Diego coastline in La Jolla. But I once met one loafing on the rocky shores of Morro Bay on the Central California coast.

14 Photos

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