Conservation status Local populations fluctuate, but overall numbers probably stable.
Family Cormorants
Habitat Ocean, coast. Almost always on salt water, entering brackish water at mouths of estuaries. May forage fairly close to shore or well out at sea. Nests on islands and locally on mainland, mostly on slopes rather than ledges of vertical cliffs.
Along the Pacific Coast, this cormorant is a common resident of wave-washed rocks and offshore waters. Sociable at all seasons, it is often seen flying in long lines low over the water. Groups roost together on rocks near water, and feed in flocks offshore, often associating with other seabirds.

Feeding Behavior

See family introduction. Reportedly able to dive deep, perhaps more than 150' below surface. Forages singly or in groups, sometimes in association with sea lions. May forage at all levels from near surface to near bottom, perhaps mostly the latter.


4, sometimes 3-6. Whitish to pale blue, becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by both sexes, incubation period unknown. Young: Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. Age at first flight unknown.


Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. Age at first flight unknown.


mostly fish. Eats a wide variety of fish, including herring, rockfish; also some shrimp, crabs.


Breeds in colonies. Male chooses nest site and displays there to ward off rivals and attract mate. Displays include drawing head back with blue throat pouch extended and bill pointed upward, spreading tail, and fluttering wings; also thrusting head forward and downward in rapid repeated strokes. Nest: Site is on ground, either level or steeply sloped. Nest is mound of seaweed, eelgrass, algae, cemented by droppings. Most nest material is obtained underwater; male does most of gathering, female does most of building. Pair may use same nest every year, adding to it annually.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Mostly permanent resident. Some local movements; birds nesting on Farallon Islands off California mostly absent in winter, perhaps going to adjacent mainland. In southeastern Alaska, apparently only a summer resident in very small numbers. Sometimes wanders along Mexican coast south of breeding range. Almost never found inland.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

Croaks and grunts.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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