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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.
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.
While much of its breeding habitat is protected in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, there is need for more resources devoted to prevention of and response to oil spills and to prevent introduction of nonnative predators.
What Can You Do?
Support adequate resources for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies to prevent and respond to oil spills and nonnative predators.
U.S. National Wildlife Refuges provide essential habitat for Red-faced Cormorant, and a great number of other species throughout the U.S. and its territories. Unfortunately, the refuge system is often under-funded during the U.S. government?s budgeting process. To learn more about how you can help gain much needed funding for U.S. National Wildlife Refuges, visit: http://www.audubon.org/campaign/refuge_report/
Harrison, P. 1983. Seabirds: An Identification Guide. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA
Kaufman, K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.