Red-Faced Cormorant - Phalacrocorax urile
St. Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska
This species has a very limited range, found only on islands in the cold seas of the southern Alaskan coast west to the Aleutian and Commander islands. Because of its limited range and location of shipping lanes through the heart of that range, it is vulnerable to oil spills and other marine pollutants. This species is also vulnerable to introduced predators on the islands where they nest.
Overall, black in appearance with greenish or violet sheen. It shows a conspicuous white patch on the flanks; its head bears two crests on forehead and nape. Its namesake bright red face patch is duller in non-breeding plumage. It looks much like Pelagic Cormorant but larger and with generally bigger proportions.
Distribution and Population Trends
The Red-faced Cormorant occurs only in the cold seas along the Alaskan coast, west to the Aleutian and Commander islands. The population is vulnerable due to the small size and location of its range.
Strictly a marine species, it prefers rough, rocky coastlines. Mainly a resident bird, but dispersing to nearby seas and south to Kurile Island and St. Michael Island, Alaska, with occasional stragglers to Japan. Breeds in mixed colonies with other seabirds, on a wide or narrow ledge on a cliff or steep slope above water. They lay three to four eggs, May to June, in a nest mound made of grass, seaweed, moss, and debris, with deep depression in the center. Diet consists primarily of fish, especially sculpins, pollock, and sand lance.
Because of its range in Alaskan seas and proximity to marine shipping lanes, this species is especially susceptible to oil spills and introduced predators, which come ashore following ship wrecks. That its range is so limited, makes it especially vulnerable. The indirect effects (e.g., competition for pollock) of industrial-scale commercial fisheries in the Bering Sea are unknown.