Pygmy Cormorant – Microcarbo pygmaeus
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Class: Aves
- Order: Suliformes
- Family: Phalacrocoracidae
- Genre: Microcarbo
- Species: Microcarbo pygmaeus
The plumage is black with shades of silver on the wings and the head is black-brown.
Nests in southern Europe and southwest Asia. It is found all along the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts, as well as the Caspian Sea coasts. In Romania, the species is partly migratory. In winter it stays mainly on still, inland, unfrozen waters or even on large rivers. In summer, the Little Cormorant can be seen on the water surface in most aquatic habitats. The breeding population in Europe is estimated at 37,600-50,400 pairs.
The European and Asian countries with the largest populations of Pygmy Cormorants are Azerbaijan, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. The Romanian breeding population has been estimated at 9,400-10,500 pairs, mainly found in inland waters and in the Danube Delta. Between 5,000 and 20,000 individuals can be observed during passage and between 954 and 20,089 individuals winter in our country. Small cormorants are also found in Văcărești Nature Park; they feed and sleep in the park, but do not nest.
Living environment and biology of the species
The Pygmy Cormorant is a warm-climate species that occurs in freshwater habitats, generally along the Danube, in floodplains or fish farms. Water depths should not exceed 1.5-2m for easy fishing. In winter, the Little Cormorant is seen in coastal lagoons and deltas, along rivers with floodplain forests, fish farms. It swims submerged a lot in the water and sits on various supports to dry off. It flies with frequent flaps of the wings, interspersed with short glides. Less often flies in a linear formation. It is a very good swimmer and diver, hovering with its body at the surface, and if it feels in danger, it dives in, leaving only its head and neck out.
Sexual maturity is reached in the third year of life. Feeds by day, mainly on fish (perch, bass, carp, wrasses and pike) and occasionally on small mammals, crustaceans, leeches and large insects. The weight of fish ingested ranges from 7 to 71 grams. It is monogamous. Pairs form for the duration of a nesting period and even for longer periods if partners return to the same territory. Mating takes place in wintering quarters.
They breed in mixed colonies, usually with Great Cormorants or species of terns or egrets, including Linnets and Gypsies. Very rarely seen nesting solitarily. Nests are established in dense stands of trees or shrubs, on branches averaging 2-2.5 m above the ground, or in dense thickets. Old nests are usually repaired and reused from year to year. If they happen to find their nests destroyed, they will build a new nest on the site of the old one. The clutch consists of 3-7 eggs, which are laid in May-June. Incubation is carried out by both partners over a period of 23-30 days. The chicks are fed digested fish at first, then regurgitated fish 3-5 times a day. They climb tree branches at 35 days of age and can swim and jump into the water at 42 days after hatching. At about 44 days after hatching they can fly, and at 56 days they leave the nest for good.
Threats and conservation measures
Factors threatening populations of Pygmy Cormorants are habitat loss and alteration, pollution and poor water management, poaching. Mortality can also be caused by fishing gear. For conservation purposes, it is recommended to respect building restrictions in riparian areas, maintain wetland vegetation at an optimal level for the species, proper waste and sewage management around wetlands. Management of water levels in aquatic ecosystems should be consistent with the ecological needs of the species. Reducing the use of fishing nets can prevent by-catch of birds. In areas of high importance for the species, tourist activities should be regulated, especially during the breeding and rearing period, and in some cases even banned.
To increase the visibility of power lines, certain devices can be installed. To minimise the risk of collisions, it is recommended to plan the installation of wind turbines. Hunting legislation must be respected, through cooperation between environmental protection organisations, hunting organisations, the gendarmerie and the Environmental Guard against poaching. It is essential to give importance to research to assess the impact of waterfowl on commercially exploited resources and to establish measures to harmonise the conservation objectives of the species with the activities of the affected sectors, to inventory breeding areas, important migration, feeding and crowding areas, and to study various aspects of the biology of the species.
- Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editors), 2022, Atlas of bird species of community interest in Romania, 2nd edition – Love birds, save nature!, Project financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme 2014-2020, Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests – Biodiversity Directorate, scientific coordination Romanian Ornithological Society and Association for the Protection of Birds and Nature Milvus Group, produced by EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. 94.
Radu Dimitrie, 1983, Small Ornithological Atlas – Birds of the World, Albatros Publishing, Bucharest, p. 57.