Pelagic Cormorant, Phalacrocorax pelagicus
The misnamed Pelagic Cormorant does not go out to sea at all, but is closely confined to the immediate ocean shore along the west coast of North America, habitat which it shares with the Brandt's Cormorant. In breeding plumage, shown above and below, it is easily distinguished from the Brandt's by the bright red of the bare skin around its eye and at the base of its bill, and the prominant white patches on the flanks. In non-breeding plumage, distinguishing features are structural; the Pelagic is distinctly more slender in neck and bill, and holds its neck straighter in flight. Brandt's often gather and fly in large groups; Pelagics are usually solitary or in very small groups.
A first-cycle Pelagic Cormorant, with brown eyes and uniform dark brown plumage overall; the non-breeding adult has glossy black plumage and blue eyes, as shown further down the page.
The Pelagic on the left above has the white flanks and some of the red skin of breeding plumage already in early January while the one on the right is still in non-breeding array; below, in late June, at the end of the breeding season, two adults are fading back into non-breeding plumage.
A Pelagic Cormorant on the nest in late June, showing a bright red gape, and dull
vestiges of the red bare skin around the eyes and below the bill; compare the bright
breeding plumage birds further up the page. Pelagic Cormorants nest in cliffs,
whereas Brandt's nest in large colonies on flat rock surfaces.