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The Pygmy Cormorant (Microcarbo pygmeus) is a member of the Phalacrocoracidae family of seabirds. It breeds in southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia. It is partially migratory, with northern populations wintering further south, mostly within its breeding range. It is a rare vagrant to western Europe.
The Pygmy Cormorant occupies an area from south-east of Europe (at east of Italy) and south-west of Asia, in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. The largest distribution is in south-east of Europe, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Balkan countries, Turkey, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Israel, Syria. In România, according to studies of Czech ornithologist Robert Ritter von Dombrowski at the end of the 19th century, the Pygmy Cormorant was present in large colonies in Danube Delta, Brăila and Ialomiţa Pond, on Vederoasa Lake (Constanţa County), on certain pools and ponds with reeds and willows in Muntenia. The number of Pygmy Cormorants’ pairs was 10000 without taking in account the breeding population of Danube Delta. Populations of Pygmy Cormorant in Romania have a dramatically decline especially in 60’ when due to the communist agricultural policies The Great Brăila Island and important parts of Ialomiţa Pond were drained in order to practice agriculture, so this the habitats of a great number of aquatic birds were destroyed. Actually, the Pigmy Cormorant can be found in Danube Delta, Jijia Largă Pond (Iasi County), probably on Maţa, Rădeanu, Vădeni Ponds in (Galați County), Cârja Pond (Vaslui County), at Vlădeşti on Prut River (Galați County), on Calinovăţ Island from Caraş-Severin County, In the Small Brăila Island, on Dunăreni Pond (Mârleanu, Constanța County), in Danubian Plain on Parches Pond-Somova (Tulcea County). At global scale it was estimated that the whole population of Pygmy Cormorants is 85.000-180.000 individuals (a study effectuated by Wetlands International in 2006) and 74-94% of total population lives in Europe. The biggest colony is in the Danube Delta, numbering 4,000 pairs, but this seems certain to plunge due to a massive canalization scheme, which despite the protected status of the delta, commenced in May 2004. According to a study made by BirdLife International in 2004 it was estimated that population of Pygmy Cormorant in Romania is 11.500-14.000 pairs and during the winter 1500-4000 pairs.
Habitat and ecology
The Pygmy Cormorants like the pools with plenty of vegetation, lakes and river deltas. They void the mountainous and cold and dry areas. Loves rice fields or other flooded areas where can be found shrubs and tree. During winter habituate also waters with higher salinity, in estuaries or on barrier lakes. There are birds who can live solitary or in groups and they are adapted somehow to human incidence. They build the nest from sticks and reed in dense vegetation, in trees, shrubs, willows but sporadically in reed (on small floating islets). At the end of May, beginning of June, both parents incubate for 27–30 days, and nestlings become independent after 70 days. The young are fed by they parents with small fish and other aquatic animals (Kiss & Rekasi, 2002). Frequently shares the same type of habitat with egrets, herons and the spoonbill.
The Pygmy Cormorant is a species with habitats strongly affected by human actions. Threats include the drainage and serious degradation of wetlands and their associated woodland, water pollution, disturbance, and the illegal hunting and drowning of many Pygmy Cormorants in fishing nets.Being a great fish consumer and also destroys the fishing nets it is often persecuted by fishermen. In Romania the ponds drainage located on inferior course of Danube in order to practice agriculture, the accidental death of birds captive in improvised fishing nets, destroying of nests by the professional fishermen in order to protect the fish resources drove to decreasing of number of individuals and including the species on IUCN red list as a vulnerable species. It is also hunted in leisure activities, and in Iran the Pygmy Cormorant is commercialized in order to be cooked.
This species is distinguished from the Great Cormorant and the Common Shag by its much smaller size, lighter build, and long tail. It feeds mainly on fish, often hunting in groups, and perches in trees between fishing expeditions. The biggest colony is in the Danube Delta, numbering 4,000 pairs, but this seems certain to plunge due to a massive canalization scheme, which despite the protected status of the delta, commenced in May 2004.
- J. Brian Nelson (2006), Pelicans, Cormorants, and Their Relatives: The Pelecaniformes (Bird Families of the World), Oxford University Press, USA
- Rob Hume (2011), RSPB Birds of Britain and Europe, Dorling Kindersley, 3rd edition (+CD) edition
- BirdLife International (2011). "Phalacrocorax pygmeus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 3 July 2011.
- Phalacrocorax pygmeus distribution map
- Robert Ritter von Dombrowski, ornithologist
- Situation of Pygmy Cormorant Population in Europe
- African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement AEWA