Family Cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae)

Least Concern

Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos)


French: Cormoran pie German: Kräuselscharbe Spanish: Cormorán piquicorto

Hydrocorax melanoleucos


, 1817,

“Australasie” = New South Wales


Polymorphic race brevirostris speculated to be a distinct species, but other than its possession of different morphs there appear to be no characters that distinguish the taxon. Proposed form melvillensis (from N Australia) is considered a synonym of nominate. Three subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. m. melanoleucos (Vieillot, 1817) – Little Pied Cormorant – Wallacea E to lowland New Guinea and satellites, Solomon Is (except Rennell) and New Caledonia; Australia and Tasmania; non-breeders recorded in Java and Bali.
  • M. m. brevicauda Mayr, 1931 – Rennell I, in S Solomons.
  • M. m. brevirostris Gould, 1837 – Little Shag – New Zealand, including Stewart I.
  • Bred on Campbell I (off S New Zealand) in 1960s; despite geographical remoteness, birds were considered probably to be of nominate melanoleucos#R rather than brevirostris, which is known only as a vagrant#R.

    Descriptive notes

    55–65 cm; 567–963 g (nominate), 413–877 g (brevirostris); wingspan 84–91 cm. Long-tailed small cormorant with short thick bill; the only... read more


    Usually silent away from breeding colonies. Calls at nest include bi-syllabic or tri-syllabic... read more


    Very adaptable, although prefers fresh water, frequenting swamps, lakes, pools, rivers, temporary... read more

    Food and feeding

    Variety of fish and invertebrates, including freshwater crayfish, shrimps, prawns and aquatic insects; small quantities of frogs and... read more


    Season irregular, depending on local water conditions; possibly year-round; peak in Oct/Nov in places. Generally forms small colonies,... read more


    Basically sedentary, with extensive juvenile dispersal. Also moves in response to local water... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread in Australia, with hundreds of colonies. New Zealand population estimated at 10,000–50,000 in early 1980s. Has... read more

    Recommended citation

    Orta, J., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2020). Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 February 2020).