Pelagic Cormorant
(Phalacrocorax pelagicus)


Picture of bird
© Andrew A Reding - License
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Pelagic Cormorant is the smallest of the four cormorant species breeding in Canada. It is only found in marine waters, but, despite its name, it is not found in pelagic waters. It breeds on the Pacific coast of North America from southern California to the coasts of the Chukchi Sea, as well as in east Asia, feeding in inshore waters. Northern populations move south in winter, but the species is generally sedentary over much of its range. Results from the Christmas Bird Count suggest that the population in Canada, and continentally, has shown little change since about 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 
Wild Species (Canada)Apparently secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

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

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada1,000 - 10,000 breeding birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence


Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

At breeding colonies, Pelagic Cormorants are easily disturbed and breeding can be disrupted by people visiting colonies. However, many existing colonies are protected within National and Provincial Parks, and Ecological Reserves. In some areas, predation by Bald Eagles is common and has had an adverse impact on breeding (Hipfner et al. 2012). However, many colonies are situated in caves or on sheltered cliff ledges, where they are inaccessible to eagles. Because of its broad distribution, the Pelagic Cormorant is less susceptible to localized oil spills and to drowning in gill-nets than some other seabirds (Hobson 2013). Continued improvements to fisheries practices to reduce mortality and marine pollution will nonetheless benefit this and other species.


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