Brandt's Cormorant
(Phalacrocorax penicillatus)


Picture of bird
© Glen Tepke (
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Brandt’s Cormorants breed along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico, but have never been numerous breeders in Canada. Many overwinter in southern British Columbia. Reproductive effort varies among years in response to climate-induced changes in the marine environment; a phenomenon that can affect population size but also complicates monitoring. Further complicating this assessment is the fact that the species’ population status relative to 1970 varies seasonally, with breeding and non-breeding population abundances seemingly following different trajectories. Sporadic surveys suggest a decrease in the breeding population, but results from the Christmas Bird Count and the British Columbia Coastal Waterbird Survey suggest little overall change or even an increase in the wintering population. Given that the wintering population is much larger than the breeding population, the overall status of the national population is perhaps best assessed as having changed little relative to 1970. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow R2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Critically imperiled2015 
State of North America’s BirdsWatch list2016 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLittle ChangeMediumBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada< 100 breeding birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

Conservation and management

The reproductive success of Brandt’s Cormorant declines when there is a reduction in rockfish, its preferred prey (Ainley et al. 1995), and increases rapidly when prey availability is high (Ainley et al. 2018). Increasing regulation of gillnet fisheries in recent decades may have benefited the species by reducing mortality from entanglement in nets (Wallace and Wallace 1998).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Stewardship