Specimens of the extinct Spectacled Cormorant Urile perspicillatus

Theodore E. Squires, Alexander L. Bond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1741, after reaching Alaska from eastern Russia and exploring the Aleutian Islands, the naturalist Wilhelm Steller became shipwrecked along with the rest of Vitus Bering's crew. During his struggle to ward off starvation on the unmapped Commander Islands, Steller discovered what would eventually be confirmed as the world's largest cormorant. Decades later, Peter Simon Pallas recognised the bird described in Steller's journal as a new species, naming it Phalacrocorax perspicillatus (now Urile perspicillatus) in his Zoographia Rosso‐Asiatica. Within 41 years of its listing in the scientific literature, Leonhard Stejneger declared the cormorant had become extinct after finding only bones on Bering Island and conferring with indigenous Unangas regarding its decline. Here, we present an inventory of all known specimens (skins and osteological) of this poorly known seabird. There are six skins in four institutions and osteological material in four. Previous references to specimens in Senckenberg Natural History Collections, Dresden, and the American Museum of Natural History, New York, are incorrect. The original source of the skins remains elusive, but they all passed through Sitka, the then-capital of Russian America. All osteological specimens are from the species' only known breeding site, Bering Island in the Commander Islands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-18
Number of pages16
JournalBulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2024


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