Red-faced Cormorants, Red-faced Shags or Violet Shags

Red-faced Cormorants, Red-faced Shags or Violet Shags | Beauty of Birds

Cormorant Information ... Listing of Species ... Cormorant / Shag Species Photos

Image removed.

Image removed. Overview / Distribution ... Alternate (Global) Names

Description ... Calls / Vocalizations

Breeding / Nesting ... Diet / Feeding

The Red-faced Cormorants (Phalacrocorax urile) - also known as Red-faced or Violet Shags - are large, dark waterbirds found in the far north of the Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea - from the eastern tip of Hokkaid? in Japan (via the Kuril Islands), the southern tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands to the Alaska Peninsula and Gulf of Alaska.

The Red-faced Cormorants were named for their distinctive red faces.

They are mostly sedentary (non-migratory), only dispersing over nearby coasts during the winter.

They are most easily recognized by the way they perch with their wings spread to out to dry them after foraging in water.

Their closest relatives are the Pelagic Cormorants (P. pelagicus); the ranges of these two species only overlap in Alaska.

Adults have few predators, except for the occasional river otter. The eggs and the young are often taken by birds of prey (such as the Bald Eagles), Gulls and corvids.

Image removed.

Image removed. Description


  • Their average length is 28 inches (71 cm)
  • Their extended wings are 25 - 29 inches (64 - 74 cm) long. The wings of females are usually about 2 inches (5 cm) shorter than those of males'. Their wingspan is about 48 inches (121.9 cm)
  • Adults weigh between 3.3 - 5.1 lbs (1.5 - 2.3 kg). Females are usually about 12.3 oz (350 g) lighter.


  • These large cormorants have long, thin necks and long tails
  • Their dark, glossy plumage is mostly deep greenish blue in color, turning purplish or bronze on the back and sides.
  • The bare facial skin is red - brighter in breeding birds and less vivid in non-breeding adults; distinguishing them from their relatives, the Pelagic Cormorants.
  • The gular region (area between the chin and the throat) is blue
  • White flank patches
  • Long, hooked bill is partially yellow
  • Males and females look alike, except for the female being slightly smaller in size.
  • Breeding Plumages:
    • Double-crest on the head
    • Thin, white plumes on the flanks, neck and rump
    • Face is turning a bright orange or red. Forehead turns red.


  • Very dark plumage, lack the distinctive red face of breeding adults.

Image removed.Similar species:

  • Loons lack the hooked bills of the Red-faced Cormorant.
  • No other cormorant species has a small blue gular region with a bright red forehead.
  • In the breeding season, the Red-faced Cormorant has a red forehead and a pale bill. Other cormorants lack the white flank patch.

Diet / Feeding

Red-faced Cormorants feed on various small fish (cottids), crabs and shrimps mostly caught by diving to depths of up to 100 feet (~30.5 meters) from the surface of the water and chasing prey under water.

They generally grab fish in their bills, without spearing them.

Breeding / Nesting

Red-faced Cormorants form breeding colonies along rocky coasts or on offshore islands - often alongside the Pelagic Cormorants.

Their nests are typically situated on the ledges of cliffs. Nesting typically occurs in May or June.

Calls / Vocalizations / Sounds

Sound Recordings

Alternate (Global) Names

Chinese: ???? ... Czech: Kormorán cervenolící, kormorán ?ervenolící ... Danish: Rødmasket Skarv ... Dutch: Aleoetenaalscholver, Roodmaskeraalscholver ... German: Rotgesichtscharbe ... Estonian: sarvikkormoran ... Finnish: Beringinmerimetso ... French: Cormoran à face rouge ... Italian: Cormorano faccia rossa, Cormorano facciarossa ... Japanese: chishimaugarasu, Chishima-ugarasu ... Korean: ??????? ... Norwegian: Rødmaskeskarv ... Polish: kormoran czerwonoczelny ... Russian: ?????? ???????????, ??????????? ?????? ... Slovak: kormorán cervenolíci, kormorán ?ervenolíci ... Spanish: Cormorán Carirrojo, Cormorán de Cara Roja ... Swedish: Beringskarv

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson


Please Note: The articles or images on this page are the sole property of the authors or photographers. Please contact them directly with respect to any copyright or licensing questions. Thank you.

The Avianweb strives to maintain accurate and up-to-date information; however, mistakes do happen. If you would like to correct or update any of the information, please send us an e-mail. THANK YOU!