Living on the Edge
Published: 06/21/2014  Updated: 08/09/2019
photo by Gary Hayes

The Pacific Pelagic Cormorant is a common inhabitant along the Oregon's rocky coast, frequently nesting on the narrow shelves of the near-vertical cliffs that face the water. It is in these rugged refuges that the cormorants lay their eggs in nests made only of collected seaweed and guano.

Standing about two feet high, the Pelagic Cormorant is a graceful and prehistoric-looking seabird that is easily recognizable by its slender build. The Pelagic Cormorant is able to spring directly from the water, rather than paddling along the surface as other cormorants do. In flight, the long, snake-like neck of the Pelagic Cormorant is held straight and their flank patches appear as white saddlebags. When skimming just a few feet above the ocean waves, their precise movements almost look like an aircraft. Up close, the adult plumage is a striking green iridescent with an unruly tuft of spiky feathers on the forehead. The hooked, pencil-thin bill and red facial skin are distinctive cormorant markings. Unlike many seabirds, the cormorants' plumage is not waterproof. This feature decreases buoyancy and enables the birds to dive deep in pursuit of prey. Pelagic Cormorants are exceptional swimmers with powerful legs and webbed feet capable of chasing fish as far as 150 feet below the surface.

You can enjoy watching the Pelagic Cormorants and other seabirds from many viewing sites on the coast. Find the best birdwatching locations and a copy of the Oregon Coast Birding Trail at
Living on the Edge