Brandt’s Cormorant, Phalacrocorax penicillatus
Brandt’s Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus), is a species of marine bird of the cormorant family of seabirds. It inhabits the Pacific coast of North America. Its summer range extends from Alaska to the Gulf of California. The populations north of Vancouver Island migrate south during the winter.
The bird’s specific name, penicillatus, is Latin for ‘pencil of hairs,’ in reference to the white plumes on its neck and back during the early breeding season. The common name honors German naturalist Johann Friedrich von Brandt of the Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg, who described the species during expeditions to the Pacific during the early 19th century.
Brandt’s Cormorant feed either singly or in flocks, and are adaptable in prey choice and undersea habitat. Its diet consists of small fish from the surface to the sea floor. It obtains its food by, like all cormorants, pursuit diving using its feet for propulsion. Prey is dependent on what is most common in its range; in central California rockfish are the most common food, but off British Columbia, it is the Pacific Herring. This marine bird can dive up to depths of 40 feet in search of its prey.
During the breeding season, adults have a blue throat patch. This species nests on the ground or on rocky outcroppings.
Image Caption: Brandt’s Cormorant in full breeding plumage with blue throat patch. Monterey Bay, California. Credit: Alan Vernon / Wikipedia (CC Attribution 2.0)