Little Cormorant

Into The world of the Little Cormorant [Microcarbo niger]

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Scientific Classification


Little Cormorant

A family of seabirds, the cormorant (Microcarbo niger) is home to the Little Cormorant. Its shorter beak and lack of a peaked head set it apart from the slightly larger Indian cormorant. Its habitat extends eastward to Java, where it is often called the Javanese cormorant,

and it is extensively scattered throughout the Indian Subcontinent. They are frequently seen foraging in a variety of lowland freshwater habitats, such as tiny ponds, big lakes, streams, and occasionally coastal estuaries,

either alone or in loose groups. Like other cormorants, it frequently emerges from the water and perches with its wings outstretched on rocks near the water. Its plumage takes on a brownish color and a little whitish patch forms on the throat during the non-breeding season,

while the bird’s entire body turns black during breeding season. These birds breed in social flocks; they frequently build their nests in trees and congregate at heronries with other waterbirds.

Little Cormorant


  • Species Name Microcarbo niger
  • Size: Slightly smaller than the Indian cormorant.
  • Physical Characteristics: has a shorter beak and no peak on its head.
  • Distribution: widely dispersed throughout Java and the Indian Subcontinent.
  • Foraging: Forages in lowland freshwater bodies, such as lakes, streams, ponds, and coastal estuaries, either alone or in loose groups.
  • Behavior: Frequently observed with its wings outstretched after emerging from the water, perched atop rocks by the lake.
  • Breeding Season: Throughout the breeding season, the entire body turns black.
  • Non-Breeding Season: There is a little white patch on the throat and dark plumage..
  • Breeding Habits: gregariously breeds in trees, occasionally congregating in heronries with other waterbirds.

Physical Characteristics


LengthApproximately 50 centimeters (20 in)
Size ComparisonSlightly smaller than the Indian cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis)
Indian Cormorant FeaturesNarrower and longer bill with a prominent hook tip, blue iris, and a more pointed head profile
Breeding Adult PlumageGlistening all-black plumage with white spots and filoplumes on the face; short crest on the back of the head; dark eyes, gular skin, and face
Non-Breeding or Juvenile PlumageBrownish plumage; bill and gular skin may appear more fleshy; inconspicuous crest; small, well-marked white patch on the throat sometimes visible
RangeWidely distributed; towards the west of the Indus River valley, its range can overlap with vagrant pygmy cormorants (Microcarbo pygmaeus), potentially difficult to differentiate in the field
Sexual DimorphismIndistinguishable in the field; males tend to be larger
Abnormal PlumagesSome abnormal silvery-grey plumages have been described
Taxonomic HistorySpecies described by Vieillot in 1817 as Hydrocorax niger; later included with other cormorants in the genus Phalacrocorax; some studies place the smaller “microcormorants” under the genus Microcarbo
Genus MeaningHydrocorax literally means water crow
Classification AdjustmentOriginally described as Hydrocorax, later included in Phalacrocorax; some studies suggest placement under the genus Microcarbo
Little Cormorant


The Indian subcontinent, which includes lowland Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India, is home to the Microcarbo niger. Its range also includes portions of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia in Southeast Asia.

Vagrants are rare in the Himalayas but have been reported on occasion in Ladakh. This versatile bird is often found in a wide range of wetland environments, from large lakes to little town ponds, and it also occasionally lives in coastal estuaries.

The Microcarbo niger habitat preference exhibits exceptional adaptability, which helps explain its distribution throughout a wide range of geographical regions.


Foraging Behavior:

  • Usually hunt alone or in tiny, loose groups.
  • Capture prey underwater, primarily fish.
  • Fish measuring between 2 and 8 centimeters in length are frequently caught at depths of less than one meter.
  • propels with webbed feet underwater.

Feeding Dynamics:

  • Bring landed fish up to the surface so they can be eaten.
  • Possibility of competition for prey from other birds such as egrets, painted storks, gulls, and small cormorants.
  • Indian cormorants frequently fish in bigger flocks together.
Little Cormorant

Wing-Drying Behavior:

  • Step out of the water, stretch your wings, and stay still.
  • Although the purpose of wing-drying behavior is unclear, it may help in wing drying.
  • The amount of time spent underwater and the duration of wing-spreading are inversely correlated with air temperature and dryness.

Breeding Season:

  • Different regions have different breeding seasons: November to February in southern India, December to May in Sri Lanka, July to September in Pakistan and northern India, and May to October in Bangladesh.
  • Males perform wing flutter displays and courting feeding at the nest site.
  • Building stick platforms atop trees or coconut palms is a joint hobby of both parents.
  • Colonies of tiny egrets and Indian pond herons may be the site of nesting.

Reproductive Cycle:

  • The size of a clutch can vary from two to six eggs, which are laid every two days.
  • The first egg is laid to start the process of incubation, which results in asynchronous hatching.
  • Babies have naked red heads and are fluffy.
  • It takes the chicks about a month to leave the nest.


  • Pectinopygus makundi, parasitic bird lice, was found in Microcarbo niger.
  • Endoparasitic helminths have been reported in birds from Sri Lanka and India, including Hymenolepis childi, Dilepis lepidocolpos, Neocotylotretus udaipurensis, and Syncuaria buckleyi.
Little Cormorant

Species in same Genus

Species Common NameScientific Name
Little Pied CormorantMicrocarbo melanoleucos
Pygmy CormorantMicrocarbo pygmaeus
Indian CormorantMicrocarbo fuscicollis
Great CormorantMicrocarbo carbo
Japanese CormorantMicrocarbo capillatus
Reed CormorantMicrocarbo africanus
Long-tailed CormorantMicrocarbo africanus brevicaudus
Javanese CormorantMicrocarbo javanicus
Macquarie ShagMicrocarbo nivalis

become noisy during the breeding season?

They communicate loudly in the neighborhood of their roosting and nesting locations, particularly in the breeding season. These birds have characteristic low roars that provide an audible background to their mating calls. They also make distinctive vocalizations that sound like low-pitched

grunts and groans, such as “kok-kok-kok” and “ah-ah-ah” cries. These distinct vocal cues probably have a major function in intraspecies communication, acting as a means of attracting mates, indicating territory, or spreading particular information among the colony members.

Little Cormorant

Fun facts

Not only is the Little Cormorant a visually appealing bird, but it’s also fascinating to watch or study. Their antics are really entertaining.

Indian cormorant vs little cormorant

CharacteristicIndian CormorantLittle Cormorant
SizeLarger (55-58 cm)Smaller (about 50 cm)
Bill ShapeLonger, hooked tipShorter, straighter
Head ProfilePeakedRounded
Plumage (Breeding)Black with white spotsEntire body turns black
Plumage (Non-Breeding)Brownish with throat patchBrownish with small throat patch
Foraging BehaviorCommunal fishing in groupsSolitary or small groups
HabitatVarious, including coastalWidely distributed in ponds, lakes
Nesting BehaviorColonies with other birdsGregarious, often in trees
DistributionWidespread across AsiaIndian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia
Scientific ClassificationGenus: PhalacrocoraxGenus: Microcarbo


  • Foraging and breeding grounds are impacted by habitat loss and deterioration due to pollution, draining, and conversion.
  • The availability and quality of prey are impacted by water pollution, which includes industrial discharge and runoff from agriculture.
  • Stress and disturbances to breeding occur as a result of human disturbance from activities like as boating and recreation close to nests.
  • Fish populations are reduced by overfishing, which puts human and other bird species in conflict.
  • Breeding success is impacted by how climate change affects nesting site stability and the availability of prey.
  • Fish can bioaccumulate poisons as a result of pollutants and pesticides in water bodies.
  • Colonies are under risk from disturbances caused by forestry, tourism, and exotic species at nesting sites.
  • Invasive species can compete for resources and disturb ecosystems.
  • Their survival depends on conservation initiatives, such as pollution reduction and habitat restoration.
Little Cormorant


Microcarbo niger can live for a variety of lengths of time, although in the wild, they typically live between six and ten years.

Are social?

With other seabirds, these blackbirds get along well and are not hostile. Large groups of them typically forage together and fish together.

Common Names in Different Languages

LanguageCommon Name
EnglishLittle Cormorant
SpanishCormorán Enano
FrenchCormoran Pygmée
ItalianCormorano Nano
RussianМалая баклань (Malaya baklan)
Chinese (Mandarin)小鸬鹚 (Xiǎo lú cí)
Japaneseコハウ (Kohau)
Hindiछोटा कॉर्मोरेंट (Chhota Cormorant)
Urduچھوٹا کورمورینٹ (Chhota Cormorant)
Little Cormorant


  1. What is the Little Cormorant’s scientific name?
    • The scientific name is Microcarbo niger.
  2. Where can be found?
    • The Indian Subcontinent, which includes Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia, is home to a large population of little cormorants.
  3. How do they catch their prey?
    • Microcarbo niger hunt mostly fish while swimming underwater. They move by using their webbed feet.
  4. What is the breeding season of the Microcarbo niger?
    • Every region has a different breeding season. It falls between July and September in Pakistan and northern India, between November and February in southern India, and between December and May in Sri Lanka.
  5. Do they build nests?
    • They do indeed construct nests. They often build their stick nests in colonies with other waterbirds, resembling platforms.
  6. Are Microcarbo niger vocal?
    • They do speak, that much is true. Around their nests and roosts, they make a variety of noises, such as low roaring noises, grunts, groans, and distinctive calls.
  7. What threats do they face?
    • Threats to them include loss of habitat, pollution, disturbances by humans, overfishing, climate change, and possible competition from other bird species.
  8. How long do Microcarbo niger live?
    • They typically live between six and ten years in the wild.
  9. Do they migrate?
    • Microcarbo niger are sedentary birds in general, but their travel patterns might change depending on the environment and the availability of food in the area.
  10. Are there any conservation efforts for Microcarbo niger?
    • Their habitats may be safeguarded, environmental problems may be resolved, and sustainable fisheries management may be promoted as part of conservation initiatives. These kinds of projects are frequently undertaken by regional environmental and ornithological associations.

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