At a Glance
This Alaskan specialty nests on islands in cold seas, associating with a wide variety of other seabirds. The bright red bare skin of its face becomes duller in winter. In recent years the Red-faced Cormorant has been increasing in numbers, expanding its range eastward along the coast of southern Alaska.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Cormorants, Upright-perching Water Birds
Coasts and Shorelines
Alaska and The North
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Mostly permanent resident. Very rare straggler away from nesting areas (though may winter away from breeding sites in Kuril Islands, north of Japan).
28-30" (71-76 cm). Red skin on face contrasts with yellow at base of bill. Wings often look brownish, duller than body plumage. In summer, red on face is brighter, and white patch develops on flank feathers. (Pelagic Cormorant also has red face and white flank patch, but has dark bill, wings the same color as its body.)
About the size of a Heron, About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Black, Brown, Red, White, Yellow
Long, Rounded, Wedge-shaped
Songs and Calls
A low korr. Hoarse croaking notes at breeding colonies.
Ocean, coast, islands. Spends most of its time close to shore in cool ocean waters, favoring rocky bays, straits between islands. Nests on rocky islands or coasts, on ledges of cliffs or steep slopes.
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3-4. Bluish white, becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by both sexes, probably about 31-34 days. Young: probably fed by both parents. Age at which young leave nest estimated at 50-60 days.
probably fed by both parents. Age at which young leave nest estimated at 50-60 days.
See family introduction. Solitary in foraging; may feed near bottom in rocky areas.
Mostly fish. Feeds on a variety of fish, especially sculpins, also pollack, sand lance, others. Also eats crustaceans including crabs, shrimp, amphipods.
Breeds in mixed colonies with other seabirds. In display, male perches with head over back, bill pointed up, moving head up and down, while quickly raising and lowering tips of folded wings so that white patches on flanks are rapidly covered and exposed, appearing to flash on and off. Nest: site is on ledge (wide or narrow) of cliff or steep slope above water. Nest is mound of grass, seaweed, moss, debris, with deep hollow in center, sometimes lined with feathers. Nest may be re-used in subsequent years.
Population in Aleutians thought to have been increasing for several decades. Since late 1950s has expanded range east along south coast of Alaska, becoming very common east to Prince William Sound. Despite increase, remains vulnerable to oil spills and other pollution.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Red-faced Cormorant. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Red-faced Cormorant
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.