Brandts Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)

Brandts Cormorant

[order] SULIFORMES | [family] Phalacrocoracidae | [latin] Phalacrocorax penicillatus | [UK] Brandts Cormorant | [FR] Cormoran de Brandt | [DE] Pinselscharbe | [ES] Cormoran de Brandt | [NL] Brandts Aalscholver


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Phalacrocorax penicillatus NA w coast


The cosmopolitan genus Phalacrocorax of the Suliformes family includes thirty-five species frequenting coasts and islands. The face and throat are naked; the bill is long, and the upper mandible much curved at the point, while the lower supports a dilatable membrane which forms a gular pouch. The legs are short, strong, and abdominal, with three toes in front and one behind, all united; the claw of the middle toe is pectinated and probably used to dress the plumage and to free the bird from insect pests. The wings are of moderate length, and the tail-feathers stiff and rigid. Many of the species develop crests or wattles in the breeding season. These birds feed exclusively on fish. All Cormorants, Shags and Darters have a small bone at the back of the skull, the occipital style. This bone is flexibly attached to the skull and is supposed to have a function for the grasping ability of these birds. The ramphotecal coating of the bills of the cormorants are divided in plates, very much like those of the tubenoses, without visible nostrils.

Physical charateristics

Size of Double-crest, but with dark throat pouch ( blue when breeding). Buffy brown band across throat behind pouch. If a young cormorant has a whitish breast
it is a Double-crest; if the breast is buffy or pale brown with a pale Y it is most likely a Brandt’s. If deep rich brown below, it is a Pelagic.

Listen to the sound of Brandts Cormorant

[audio: Cormorant.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 105 cm wingspan max.: 115 cm
size min.: 70 cm size max.: 79 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 31 days
fledging min.: 35 days fledging max.: 40 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 6  


North America : West coast


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.


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, a
nd fluttering wings; also thrusting head forward and downward in rapid repeated strokes.
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.
Clutch 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. 1 brood per year.

Feeding habits

Mostly fish. Eats a wide variety of fish, including herring, rockfish; also some shrimp, crabs.
Behavior: Forages by diving from surface and swimming underwater, propelled entirely o
r mostly by feet. 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. Eyes adapted
for vision in water as well as in air.


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Mostly permanent resident. Some local movements; birds nesting on Farallon Islands off California are mostly absent in winter, perhaps going to adjacent mainland. In southeastern Alaska, apparently only a summer resident. Sometimes wanders south along Me
xican coast. Almost never found inland
Brandts Cormorant status Least Concern


Pacific Coast of North America.

Distribution map

Brandts Cormorant distribution range map

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