Family Cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae)

Least Concern

Pelagic Cormorant (Urile pelagicus)


French: Cormoran pélagique German: Meerscharbe Spanish: Cormorán pelágico
Other common names: Pelagic Shag

Phalacrocorax pelagicus


, 1811,

eastern Kamchatka and the Aleutian Islands


Sometimes placed in genus Stictocarbo or occasionally in Leucocarbo, but classification here follows results of a comprehensive molecular phylogeny for the entire family#R. Recently proposed form U. kenyoni (described from bones of three individuals caught in late 1950s in fishing nets on Amchitka, in Aleutian Is) subsequently shown to refer to small females of present species#R. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • U. p. pelagicus Pallas, 1811 – N Pacific coasts from NE Siberia (Chukotskiy Peninsula) S to Kuril Is, N Japan and NE China (islands of Laoning), and E through Commander Is, Aleutian Is and Alaska to W Canada (Queen Charlotte Is); W populations winter S to Japan and E China.
  • U. p. resplendens Audubon, 1838 – SW Canada (British Columbia) to NW Mexico (Baja California).
  • Descriptive notes

    63–76 cm; male 1814–2440 g, female 1214–2041 g; wingspan 91–102 cm. Slim cormorant with thin bill. Breeding adult has erectile crest of upcurved feathers on... read more


    Rather silent away from breeding colonies but perched groups occasionally utter low-pitched, nasal... read more


    Marine. Feeds in sheltered coastal waters, including inlets and bays, and also on open sea. Breeds... read more

    Food and feeding

    Despite the name, this is not a pelagic species. It occurs and feeds in inshore waters, capturing mainly non-schooling fish caught over... read more


    Laying May–Jul. Normally forms small colonies, sometimes solitary; neighbouring colonies can be used in alternate years. Nests on... read more


    Most populations sedentary but perform some, mainly short-range, post-breeding dispersal, as shown... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). The most widespread cormorant species in the N Pacific. Total global population unknown. Some colonies are stable or fluctuate in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Orta, J., Garcia, E.F.J., Jutglar, F. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Pelagic Cormorant (Urile pelagicus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 18 August 2019).