A solidly built cormorant, thick-necked and large-headed, black with little gloss, 33–35 inches (84–89 cm). Breeding birds have bright cobalt-blue throat patches bordered with yellow, and slender white plumes on face and back. Young birds are duller and buff-coloured on the breast. Double-crested cormorants are similar, but fly with more of a crook in their neck and have a conspicuous orange throat pouch. Pelagic cormorants are smaller and more slender, with smaller head; adults have white flank patches.
Coastal or offshore rocks and waters near shore.
The clutch size for this species is 3–6 chalky bluish eggs in a large nest of seaweed or other debris. They nest in colonies on cliffs and rocky islands.
Resident along Pacific Coast from south-eastern Alaska south to Baja California.
Croaks and grunts.
Brandt’s cormorants are less frequently seen in the Pacific Northwest. Often they gather in flocks of several hundred and fly to feeding grounds in long straggling lines. This species and the pelagic cormorant frequently nest on the same cliffs, with Brandt’s forming colonies on level ground at the top of the cliff and the pelagic choosing inaccessible ledges. Nest robbing by western gulls is such a serious problem that nests are rarely left unguarded.