These are the smallest and most delicate of the Pacific cormorants: 25–30″ (64–76 cm). They are a glossy black, with a dark bill, long, slender neck, which is held out straight in flight, head no wider than neck, and a red throat patch. Breeding birds have a bold white spot on each flank. At close range, two crests – fore and aft – are visible. The immature birds are dark brown, with same proportions as adults. Other coastal cormorants are bulkier, with a slower wing-beat.
The pelagic cormorant can be found near the coastal areas seen relaxing on cliff faces or rocky islands and islets
The clutch size for this species is three to seven chalky bluish eggs in a nest of seaweed, feathers, guano and other debris. Nests are used year after year and may grow quite large. The nests are often located on steep cliffs and rocky islands. They can be found building a nest that looks similar to a conch shell-shaped light affixed to a wall. When these graceful creatures wish to take flight from their nest, they must drop out of the nest backwards then turn in mid-air and twist around in order to fly away from the rocky wall due to the large muscles in their pelvic area (forward centre of gravity).
Breeds from the Bering Sea south to the northern Baja in California. It winters south from southern Alaska.
Groaning and hissing calls around breeding colonies.
The pelagic cormorant feeds mainly on fish, which it pursues both close to shore and far out at sea. It also takes crabs and other crustaceans. To catch this prey it dives deeply; birds have been taken in fishing nets at depths of 210 feet (70 m). Their small size enables them to spring directly from the water, rather than paddling along the surface as other cormorants do.