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BC Conservation Data Centre: Species Summary

Urile pelagicus
Pelagic Cormorant

Scientific Name: Urile pelagicus (Pallas, 1811)
Scientific Name Synonyms: Phalacrocorax pelagicus
English Name: Pelagic Cormorant
Classification / Taxonomy
Scientific Name - Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online:
Classification Level: Species
Taxonomy Comments: From Hobson (2013):
"No subspecies. A purportedly smaller subspecies breeding from s. British Columbia south to nw. Baja California, P. p. resplendens Audubon, 1838, often is recognized (e.g., Dorst and Mougin 1979), but measurements overlap widely (Appendix 2), genetic markers diverge little (Zink et al. 1995), and breeders from the Aleutian Is., all of which are within the range of the larger nominate subspecies, are as small as the southern breeders (Rowher et al. 2000)."
Species Group: Vertebrate Animal
Species Code: B-PECO
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Craniata Aves Suliformes Phalacrocoracidae
Conservation Status / Legal Designation
Global Status: G5 (Apr 2016)
Provincial Status: S4 (Mar 2015)
BC List: Yellow
Provincial FRPA list:   
Provincial Wildlife Act:
SARA Schedule:
General Status Canada: 4 - Secure (2005)
Migratory Bird Convention Act:
Ecology & Life History
General Description:
Global Reproduction Comments: Egg laying occurs mid-April through June or early July in southern California, mid-May through early August (renesting) in British Columbia, late May through late June or early July in Gulf of Alaska. Both adults, in turn, incubate an average of 3-4 eggs for 27-37 days (average 30-32 days). Young are altricial, leave nest at 4+ to 8+ weeks (average 7 weeks). Single-brooded. Sexually mature at 2 or 3 years. Renesting rate after clutch loss may be low in some areas. Reproductive success may vary greatly from year to year within a single colony, depending on predation or food supply (see Johnsgard 1993). Nests in small colonies; less gregarious than other cormorant species.
Global Ecology Comments: Corvids, large gulls, and raptors probably are the most important sources of egg and chick mortality in southern areas, whereas bald eagles, food, or weather may be more important in limiting productivity in northern areas; foxes and river otters may be locally important (Johnsgard 1993).
Migration Characteristics:
(Global / Provincial)
    Local Migrant:
    Distant Migrant:
    Within Borders Migrant:
Y /
Y /
Y /
na /
Global Migration Comments: Northernmost breeding populations migrate southward for winter; arrives in northern breeding areas usually between mid-April and late May or sometimes not until early June, departs mainly in late September-October (Johnsgard 1993).
(Type / Subtype / Dependence)
Global Habitat Comments: Bays, inlets, and outer coastal areas, especially in rock-bottom habitats; often in water less than 100 m deep within 1-2 km of shore, though some (probably immatures and nonbreeding adults) may wander to much deeper waters. Nests on island cliff ledges and in crevices and on narrow cliff ledges along the coast, or in sea caves. Often nests with other species of cormorants, as well as near murres, common eiders, tufted puffins, and glaucous-winged gulls (Terres 1980). Colony site locations may shift abruptly from year to year (see Spendelow and Patton 1988).
Food Habits: Invertivore: Adult, Immature
Piscivore: Adult, Immature
Global Food Habits Comments: Feeds on fishes, especially nonschooling, cryptic, demersal or epibenthic forms of rocky reefs (Johnsgard 1993); also consumes crabs, shrimps, marine worms, and amphipods (Terres 1980). Diver; forages individually, primarily along rocky shorelines, sometimes over flat sand or mud bottoms.
Global Phenology: Diurnal: Adult, Immature
Provincial Phenology:
(1st half of month/
2nd half of month)
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length(cm)/width(cm)/Weight(g): 66/ / 1915
Elevation (m) (min / max): Global: 
Endemic: N
Global Range Comment: BREEDS: from Chukchi Peninsula, Siberia, and Wrangel and Herald Islands in Arctic Ocean, south along Asian coast to northern Japan; also from Point Hope, Alaska, south locally to the Alaska Peninsula, including St. Lawrence and Diomede islands, west through the Aleutian and Commander islands, and eastward and southward from the Alaska Peninsula along the Pacific coast to northern Baja California (Johnsgard 1993). RANGES/WINTERS: from Aleutians and southern Alaska (or northern limits of open water) south to central Baja California; from Kamchatka south to China (AOU 1983).
Authors / Contributors
Global Information Author: Hammerson, G.
Last Updated: Feb 18, 1994
Provincial Information Author:
Last Updated:
References and Related Literature
Ainley, D. G., and G. A. Sanger. 1979. Trophic relationships of seabirds in the northeastern Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Pp. 95-122 IN J. C. Bartonek and D. N. Nettleship, editors. Conservation of marine birds of northern North America. U.S. Department of Interior, FIsh and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Research Report 11.
American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1983. Check-list of North American Birds, 6th edition. Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas. 877 pp.
Campbell, R.W., N.K. Dawe, I.McT. Cowan, J.M. Cooper, G. Kaiser, and M.C.E. McNall. 1990. The Birds of British Columbia, Vol. 1. Nonpasserines: Introduction, Loons through Waterfowl. Royal B.C. Mus. in association with Environ. Can., Can. Wildl. Serv. 514pp.
Godfrey, W.E. 1966. The birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada. Ottawa. 428 pp.
Golovkin, A. N. 1984. Seabirds nesting in the USSR: the status and protection of populations. Pages 473-486 in Croxall et al., eds. Status and conservation of the world's seabirds. ICBP Tech. Pub. No. 2.
Harrison, C. 1978. A Field Guide to the Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds. Collins, Cleveland, Ohio.
Hasegawa, H. 1984. Status and conservation of seabirds in Japan, with special attention to the short-tailed albatross. Pages 487-500 in Croxall et al., eds. Status and conservation of the world's seabirds. ICBP Tech. Pub. No. 2.
Hatch, S. A., and M. A. Hatch. 1990. Breeding seasons of oceanic birds in a subarctic colony. Can. J. Zool. 68:1664-1679.
Hobson, K. A.. 2013. Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.
Hyslop, C., and J. Kennedy, editors. 1992. Bird trends: a report on results of national ornithological surveys in Canada. Number 2, Autumn 1992. Migratory Birds Conservation Division, Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Ontario. 20 pp.
Johnsgard, P. A. 1993. Cormorants, darters, and pelicans of the world. Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington, D.C. xiv + 445 pp.
Lensink, C. J. 1984. The status and conservation of seabirds in Alaska. Pages 13-27 in Croxall et al., eds. Status and conservation of the world's seabirds. ICBP Tech. Publ. No. 2.
Rohwer, S., C. E. Filardi, K. S. Bostwick, and A. T. Peterson. 2000. A critical evaluation of Kenyon's Shag (PHALACROCORAX [STICTOCARBO] KENYONI). Auk 117:308-320.
Siegel-Causey, D. 1988. Phylogeny of the Phalacrocoracidae. Condor 90:885-905.
Siegel-Causey, D. 1991. Systematics and biogeography of North Pacific shags, with a description of a new species. Occasional Papers of the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History 140:1-17.
Siegel-Causey, D., C. Lefevre, and A. B. Savinetskii. 1991. Historical diversity of cormorants and shags from Amchitka Island, Alaska. Condor 93:840-852.
Spendelow, J. A. and S. R. Patton. 1988. National Atlas of Coastal Waterbird Colonies in the Contiguous United States: 1976-1982. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report 88(5). x + 326 pp.
Terres, J. K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Vermeer, K., and S. G. Sealy. 1984. Status of the nesting seabirds of British Columbia. Pages 29-40 in Croxall et al., eds. Status and conservation of the world's seabirds. ICBP Tech. Pub. No. 2.
Zink, R. M., S. Rohwer, A. V. Andreev, and D. L. Dittman. 1995. Trans-Beringia comparisons of mitochondrial DNA differentiation in birds. Condor 97:639-649.

Please visit the website Conservation Status Ranks for definitions of the data fields used in this summary report.

Suggested Citation:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 1994. Species Summary: Urile pelagicus. B.C. Minist. of Environment. Available: (accessed Mar 1, 2024).