Little pied cormorant

Little pied cormorant[Microcarbo melanoleucos]: Fascinating Details

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Scientific Classification


Little pied cormorant

Known by its scientific name, Microcarbo melanoleucos, the Little Pied Cormorant is a widespread waterbird found throughout Australasia. This species can be found in many different types of settings, including as inland waters, islands, coasts, and estuaries in Australia, Timor-Leste, New Zealand, and

Indonesia. It also lives in the subantarctic and on the islands in the southwest Pacific. The Microcarbo melanoleucos is distinguished by its small stature, short bill, and unique coloring. Its upper body is usually black in color while its lower body is white, with a small crest and yellow bill to complete the picture.

It is remarkable, nevertheless, that a white-throated, mostly black variety is more frequent in New Zealand. There are three recognized subspecies within the genus. It is important to note that, up until recently, Phalacrocorax melanoleucos was the name given by most authorities to this species of bird.

Little pied cormorant


  • Scientific Name: Microcarbo melanoleucos
  • Description:A small, short-billed cormorant with a modest crest, yellow bill, and black upper and bottom plumage. The population of New Zealand frequently includes a white-throated, predominantly black variety.
  • Distribution and Habitat: Common throughout Australasia, which includes the islands in the southwest Pacific, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, New Guinea, New Zealand, and Australia. inhabits inland waters, estuaries, islands, and coastal regions.
  • Feeding: They are mostly pscivorous, meaning they eat fish. In addition to potentially consuming crabs and other aquatic life, they dive underwater in search of prey.
  • Breeding: Building nests in trees or on the ground close to water is one of the breeding habits. In various areas, the species has three recognized subspecies. Particular behaviors are frequently seen by breeding populations during the reproductive season.
  • Formerly Known As: once known by several authorities as Phalacrocorax melanoleucos.


Common NamesLittle pied cormorant (Australia), little shag, kawaupaka (New Zealand). The term “white-throated shag” is reserved for the melanistic form in New Zealand.
Scientific DescriptionOriginally described by French naturalist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1817. In 1931, American ornithologist James Lee Peters classified it in a separate genus (Microcarbo) along with pygmy cormorant (M. pygmaeus), little cormorant (M. niger), and long-tailed cormorant (M. africanus). Molecular work by Sibley and Ahlquist identified them as a group diverging early from other cormorants.
Genus NameMicrocarbo, derived from Ancient Greek mikros “small” and Latin carbo “black“.
Historical NameMost older authorities referred to this species as Phalacrocorax melanoleucus.
Language and Naming in WarayIn the now-extinct Waray language spoken in North Arnhem Land, the species was known as “mawa“.
Subspecies1. M. m. melanoleucos – Resident throughout the species range except in New Zealand and the sub-Antarctic islands.
2. M. m. brevicauda Mayr 1931 – Endemic to Rennell Island, Solomon Islands.
3. M. m. brevirostris Gould 1837 (little shag) – Resident throughout New Zealand, regularly seen on sub-Antarctic islands; some authorities treat it as a distinct species (P. brevirostris).
Little pied cormorant

How does it look?

  1. Description:
    • The Microcarbo melanoleucos is a small bird measuring 56–58 cm with a shorter 3 cm bill and longer tail than the little black cormorant.
    • It has two morphs in New Zealand: pied (black above, white beneath) and melanistic (entirely black with a greenish tinge).
    • Subspecies melanoleucos and brevicauda are found only in the pied morph.
  2. Distinctive Features:
    • The pied morph is glossy black above with a white face, underparts, and thighs.
    • Yellow bill and bare skin around the face distinguish both morphs.
    • Legs and feet are black in both forms.
  3. Life Stages:
    • Chicks have dark brown down, with pied morph having patches of paler down.
    • Immature birds are dull blackish brown, with pied morph birds having paler underparts.
  4. Behavior:
    • During courtship, the Microcarbo melanoleucos makes a low cooing sound.
  5. Similar Species:
    • Similar species include the black-faced cormorant (slightly larger) and the Australian pied cormorant (substantially larger).
    • Subspecies brevirostris has a more common melanistic morph.


They are found all around Australasia in many different areas. It is found throughout the Australian mainland, with the exception of the dry heartland of the west, and stretches from Stewart Island to Northland in New Zealand. Furthermore, the species can be found in the Solomon Islands,

Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Tasmania, and New Caledonia. Its range includes Sulawesi, the Lesser Sunda Islands, the Maluku Islands, and Western New Guinea in eastern Indonesia. Non-breeding birds have been seen on Java, Bali, and once off the coast of East Kalimantan.

Little pied cormorant


Being a flexible and adaptable bird, the Microcarbo melanoleucos frequently lives in a range of habitats. It is common and widely distributed, especially in areas close to water, like lakes, marshes, lagoons, estuaries, and beaches. The species’ capacity to flourish over its wide distribution area is facilitated by its tolerance to various water settings.

Species in same Genus

Scientific NameCommon Name
Microcarbo melanoleucosLittle Pied Cormorant
Microcarbo nigerLittle Black Cormorant
Microcarbo coronatusCrowned Cormorant
Microcarbo pygmaeusPygmy Cormorant
Microcarbo africanusLong-tailed Cormorant
Microcarbo albiventerLittle Cormorant
Microcarbo sinensisGreat Cormorant
Microcarbo chalconotusIndian Cormorant
Microcarbo bougainvilliiBougainville’s Cormorant
Microcarbo sulcirostrisLittle Pied Shag
Little pied cormorant


Benthic feeders, like the Microcarbo melanoleucos, find their prey mostly on the ocean floor. Functioning as a lone feeder, it usually dives in relatively shallow waters, frequently near the coast. Unless the prey is consumed and the recovery time is prolonged,

dives last just 15 to 20 seconds, with 5- to 10-second surface breaks in between. The species exhibits a heterogeneous diet consisting of a range of fish species, but it places a particular emphasis on crustaceans, which account for approximately

30% of its average weight and as much as 80% in some individuals. It usually goes after local flounder and other tiny flatfish in the waters of New Zealand. The small pied cormorant also brings bug larvae and eels to the surface of the water to eat them.

It’s interesting to note that sometimes the bird reorients a fish by placing it on the water’s surface before devouring it whole. They are subject to some degree of kleptoparasitism from red-billed gulls as a result of this activity.

Little pied cormorant


Breeding occurs once a year in southern portions of the Microcarbo melanoleucos territory, such as southern Australia and New Zealand, usually in the spring or early summer. In tropical regions, breeding takes place following the monsoon. Using branches and sticks—often still green with leaves—a platform is

formed in order to build the nest. These nests are located in the forks of trees, usually standing in water, most commonly eucalypts. Remarkably, nesting locations are usually selected to be near other waterbirds, such as spoonbills, ibises, herons, and other cormorants. Four or five pale blue oval eggs,

each measuring 46 x 31 mm, are laid by the bird in a clutch. Notably, the eggs possess a thin layer of lime, providing them with a matte white coated appearance. As the breeding season progresses, both the eggs and the nest become increasingly stained with faeces, reflecting the ongoing nesting activities.


  1. Loss and deterioration of habitat as a result of agricultural development and urbanization.
  2. Human interference, such as leisure pursuits close to regions used for breeding and feeding.
  3. contamination of water bodies, which also contaminates nesting grounds and reduces the availability of prey.
  4. Weather patterns and the availability of suitable habitats are being affected by climate change.
  5. competition between different species of waterbirds for food supplies.
  6. Rats and cats are examples of imported species that prey on nests.
  7. unintentional entanglement in fishing equipment that results in harm or death.
Little pied cormorant


The lifespan of the Microcarbo melanoleucos is typically around 8 to 10 years in the wild.


During courting, they are recognized for making a characteristic low cooing sound. While grunts, croaks, and guttural noises are among the vocalizations of cormorants, including the Microcarbo melanoleucos, they are generally not as melodious as the songs of certain other bird species.

Common Names in Different Languages

LanguageCommon Name
EnglishLittle Pied Cormorant
SpanishCormorán Pío Pequeño
FrenchCormoran Pie
ItalianCormorano piedi neri
DutchKleine Bonte Aalscholver
Japaneseコクマソウゲンチョウ (Kokuma-sougen-chou)
Chinese (Mandarin)小斑鸬鹚 (Xiǎo bān lú cí)
RussianМалый белошейный баклан (Maly belosheynyy baklan)
Urduچھوٹا پائیڈ کورمورنٹ (Chhota Pied Cormorant)
Hindiछोटा पाइड कॉर्मोरेंट (Chhota Pied Cormorant)
Little pied cormorant


  1. What is the scientific name of the Little Pied Cormorant?
    • The scientific name is Microcarbo melanoleucos.
  2. Where is the natural habitat of their?
    • Numerous aquatic environments, such as freshwater lakes, rivers, estuaries, and coastal waterways, are home to Microcarbo melanoleucos.
  3. What is the distinctive feature of the Microcarbo melanoleucos?
    • The plumage of their is distinctive, being both black and white. Its underparts are white, with a prominent white patch on its face, while its upper body is black.
  4. What is the size of the Microcarbo melanoleucos?
    • With a length of 55 to 60 centimeters (22 to 24 inches) and a wingspan of about 90 centimeters (35 inches), these cormorants are comparatively small.
  5. What is the diet of their?
    • Fish is the main food source for them. They are adept divers who capture a variety of small fish underwater using their keen beaks.
  6. Are they migratory birds?
    • Although Microcarbo melanoleucos don’t usually migrate, the availability of food and the surrounding environment may have an impact on where they travel.
  7. Do Little Pied Cormorants nest in colonies?
    • Indeed, these cormorants frequently lay their nests in groups in trees or cliffs close to bodies of water.
  8. Are Little Pied Cormorants considered social birds?
    • Indeed, groups of Microcarbo melanoleucos are frequently observed foraging and building their nests.
  9. What are the threats to the Microcarbo melanoleucos?
    • The loss of habitat, water body pollution, and disturbance of nesting grounds are among the threats. Additionally, they can be preyed upon by invasive species.
  10. Are Little Pied Cormorants protected by conservation efforts?
  • While regional differences exist in conservation efforts, legislation pertaining to wildlife and conservation often provide protection for them.

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