email a friend
printable version
Pygmy Cormorant Microcarbo pygmaeus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Microcarbo pygmaeus (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Phalacrocorax.

Halietor pygmeus Collar and Andrew (1988), Phalacrocorax pygmaeus (Pallas, 1773)

Distribution and population
The species breeds in south-east Europe (east from Italy), Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzebekistan, and winters primarily in Albania, Greece, the Balkan states, Turkey, Cyprus, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan and also Israel, Bulgaria, Romania and Syria.

Population justification
The species has a large global population estimated to be 85,000-180,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006).The estimated European population (75-94% of the global breeding range) is now 28,000-39,000 pairs, considerably higher than the 13,000 pairs estimated in 1996, with an estimated 8,000-12,000 breeding pairs in Azerbaijan and 11,500-14,000 breeding pairs in Romania (BirdLife International 2004).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is increasing, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).

The species occurs in reedbeds, transition zones between reedbeds and open waters, extensively grazed or mowed shores and wet meadows and, in winter, in coastal wetlands, along rivers, and sometimes on inland lakes (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993, Crivelli et al. 2000, BirdLife International 2004). The preferred nesting habitat is willow Salix trees but, in Azerbaijan, birds breed mainly in Tamarix (Crivelli et al. 2000). The nest is a deep cup of sticks and reeds built near or over water in trees, bushes, reedbeds or on floating islets of vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993, Nelson et al. 2005). The species breeds between April and July in large mixed-species colonies, leaving the breeding grounds towards the end of August and returning between March and April (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species is sedentary over much of its range with some populations migrating over short distances (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Throughout the year it normally feeds singly or in small groups (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Nelson et al. 2005). Diet consists predominantly of fish up to 15 cm long (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

The species is threatened by the degradation of wetlands through drainage for agriculture (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and changes in hydrological regimes (Eken and Magnin 1999, Kazantzidis and Nazirides 1999, Crivelli et al. 2000). It also suffers persecution from the aquaculture industry (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Eken and Magnin 1999, Kazantzidis and Nazirides 1999, Crivelli et al. 2000). The species is hunted for recreation and for commercial use (sold at food markets) in Iran (Balmaki and Barati 2006). In south-east Europe, conservation measures have ameliorated the most important threats (Crivelli et al. 2000), although concern still exists regarding habitat destruction and persecution in its wintering range (Petkov, Nikolov and Velkov in litt. 2005).

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. A European action plan was published in 1996.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Balmaki, B.; Barati, A. 2006. Harvesting status of migratory waterfowl in northern Iran: a case study from Gilan Province. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 868-869. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Crivelli, A. J.; Nazirides, T.; Catsadorakis, G.; Hulea, D.; Malakou, M.; Marinov, M.; Shogolev, I. 2000. Status and population development of Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmaeus breeding in the Palearctic. In: Yesou, P.; Sultana, J. (ed.), Monitoring and conservation of birds, mammals and sea turtles in the Mediterranean and Black Seas: Proceedings of the 5th Medmaravis Symposium, Gozo, Malta, 29 September - 3 October 1998, pp. 49-60. Environment Protection Department, Valetta.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Eken, G.; Magnin, G. 1999. A preliminary biodiversity atlas of the Konya Basin, Central Turkey. Dogal Hayat Koruma Dernegi, Istanbul.

Johnsgard, P. A. 1993. Cormorants, darters, and pelicans of the world. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.

Kazantzidis, S.; Nazirides, T. 1999. National Action Plan for the Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus), Pallas 1993. WWF/HOS/Society for the Protection of Prespes, Athens.

Nelson, J. B. 2005. Pelicans, cormorants and their relatives. Pelecanidae, Sulidae, Phalacrocoracidae, Anhingidae, Fregatidae, Phaethontidae. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Wetland International - China Office. 2006. Relict Gull surveys in Hongjianao, Shaanxi Province. Newsletter of China Ornithological Society 15(2): 29.

Further web sources of information
Action Plan for the Pygmy Comorant in Europe

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
O'Brien, A., Harding, M., Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Microcarbo pygmaeus. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants)
Species name author (Pallas, 1773)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 461,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment