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Phalacrocorax gaimardi

Red-legged Cormorant

  • Order: Suliformes
  • Family: Phalacrocoracidae
  • Monotypic

Authors: Frere, Esteban, and Ana Millones



The slim body with gray plumage, the yellow bill and the red tarsi and toes make the Red-legged Cormorant an unmistakable species. The Red-legged Cormorant is smaller and lighter than sympatric species. Atlantic birds are smaller than those on the Pacific coast, and there also are minor plumage differences (Nelson 2005).

Similar Species


In the Atlantic coast, the Red-legged Cormorant often breeds in sympatry with the Magellan Cormorant (also known as Rock Shag; Phalacrocorax magellanicus) and the Imperial Cormorant (Phalacrocorax atriceps). Rock Shags are a little bit heavier than Red-legged Cormorants and their plumage is black, with breast, belly and flanks white. Imperial Cormorants are larger than Red-legged Cormorants, and their plumage is white on the entire underparts, and with upperparts and face.


Un-seabird-like, high-pitched chirping or chirruping, like a songbird.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported

Detailed Description (appearance)

Adult: Sexes similar. The adult plumage is dark gray. The head, neck, back, wings, and the tail are dark gray with some markings of silvery gray. Ventral surface is somewhat paler. On each side of neck, adults have an elongated white patch, and behind the eye, this species present a scattered patch of white filoplumes.

Juvenile: see Rasmussen (1998) and Nelson (2005).

Bare Parts

Iris: green, surrounded by regularly spaced pale blue spots.

Facial skin: orange bare skin around the face.

Bill: yellow with red base.

Tarsi and toes: coral red


Data are from Johnson (1965), Nelson (2005), and Frere et al. (personal observations).

Mean sizes: 

Wing: 24.35 cm

Tail: 9.7 cm

Bill: 5.6 cm

Tarsus: 5.3 cm

Total length: 71-75 cm

Mass: 1.3-1.8 kg


No information.

Geographic Variation

Monotypic (there are no described subspecies). Nonetheless, the population on the Atlantic coast is smaller and paler than the population on the Pacific coast, and there are other, minor plumage differences between the two (Nelson 2005).


Sometimes referred to as Carbo gaimardi, Stictocarbo gaimardi and Leucocarbo gaimardi.

Recommended Citation

Frere, Esteban, and Ana Millones. 2012. Red-legged Cormorant (Phalacrocorax gaimardi), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: