Pygmy Cormorant Microcarbo pygmaeus


Justification of Red List category
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.

Population justification
The species has a large global population estimated to be 48,000-137,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated at 37,600-50,400 pairs, which equates to 75,100-101,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015) this is considerably higher than the 28,000-39,000 pairs reported in 2004 (BirdLife International 2004) and the 13,000 pairs estimated in 1996. The population is therefore placed in the band 45,000-139,999 individuals.

Trend justification
The overall population trend is increasing, although some populations have stable trends (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated to be increasing (BirdLife International 2015).

Distribution and population

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


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). It is particularly vulnerable to being caught as bycatch in gillnet fisheries (Žydelis et al. 2013). It is also susceptible to marine pollution, such as biocides and pesticides caused by agricultural run-off.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species, and is covered by the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. It is listed under Annex II of the Bern Convention and Annex I of the EU Birds Directive. The following information refers to the species's European range only: It is currently listed within 182 Important Bird Areas in Europe. Within the EU it is currently listed within 189 Special Protection Areas. In 1993 a Greek National Plan of Action was developed for the species (National Plan of Action 1993). A European action plan was published in 1996.

Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's European range only: Improved management of wetlands and increased regulation of water extraction and water pollution for inshore water bodies. Identification and designation of protected sites. Monitoring of bycatch in inshore coastal areas and application of bycatch mitigation measures where appropriate.


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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Microcarbo pygmaeus. Downloaded from on 27/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/09/2023.