Little Cormorant nesting in Peninsular Malaysia

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Bird with nesting material.

“The Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger) used to be an uncommon migrant to Peninsular Malaysia. The ‘A Checklist of the birds of Malaysia Dec 2016(v2)’ lists the Little Cormorant as a rare migrant to the peninsular.

Bird with nesting material.

“Summary of selected observations of numbers over time:
1. For the 1980s Wells (1999) states of them: ‘handful of sightings on the Malaysian West-Coast…’
2. In 2007 & 2009 sightings in Langkawi, Kedah as wells as 2007 in Bidor, Perak (Source: A Field Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore by Allen Jeyarajasingam).
3. In 2009 sighting at Marang River, Terengganu (Source: Malaysian Nature Society-Bird Conservation Council Records Committee, 2000-2013).
4. In 2011 Lim Kim Chye & Lim Swee Yian saw a single bird in Taiping, Perak.
5. In 2012 Connie Khoo, Eve Tung & I saw a single bird for an extended migration period (2012-2013) in the Tambun Interior ex-mining pool area, Ipoh, Perak.
6. On 10th August 2013 I reported 12 migratory birds in one extended wetlands location near Malim Nawar, Perak (source: Amar-Singh HSS. Observation of increased migration of the little cormorant in Peninsular Malaysia. Suara Enggang. Vol 21, No. 4, December 2013).
7. Since that time many of us in Perak have seen flocks of increasing size, with growing numbers of resident birds throughout the year. Chiu Sein Chiong posted a video in February 2018 of 40-50 birds at Malim Nawar wetlands site. In November 2018 I saw 90-120 birds. In the past year we have been seeing flocks of 200-300 birds. The resident birds are supplemented by migrants and birds born locally.

“The Little Cormorant is not known to nest in Peninsular Malaysia. David Wells (recent personal communication, July 2019) says ‘I don’t recall any previous definite nest record south of the Thai border.’ I have personally not read of any reports of nesting locally.

Birds with nesting materials.

“Summary of selected observations of nesting behaviour & nests over time:
1. I first observed Little Cormorants collecting nesting material on February 2014.
2. Initial single birds with nesting material were seen. Then over the next few years increasing number of such observations (6 occasions) with many birds involved. I also had a suspicion as to the location of the main nesting site.
3. By 2016 I had confirmed the nesting site. I was concerned as mal-development nearby threatened the nesting site. But (fortunately) access is extremely difficult and hence it has been preserved. Due to the inaccessibility optics are also poor.
4. I returned today to continue observations. I can now confirm that there are more than a 100 birds roosting here and more than 50 birds involved in nesting activities (actual number of nests hard to determine/see well, but I estimate at least 30).

There are at least 2 nests (the image was processed using Topaz Gigapixel AI software to enlarge the image without losing detail).

“The nesting site is a ‘heronry’ with many Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea jouyi), Black-crowned Night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax), Purple Herons (Ardea purpurea manilensis) and other waterbirds (including Egrets) nesting at the same locality. It is a large clump of trees with both bare branches and dense foliage (many of the trees were the Yellow Acacia). Acacia auriculiformis (Yellow Acacia) originated from Australia and Indonesia and is a fast growing tree (popular roadside tree planted in Malaysian in the 1970s and 1980s). It can be found growing wild on poor quality soils like ex-mining land. The Little Cormorants appear to prefer the dense foliage locations for nests. During a brief visit today I saw more than 40 birds bringing nesting material. The predominant nesting materials were sticks/twigs, but they also brought leaves. Nesting material is not collected from the nesting site.

“The breeding period is varied in different locations: July to September in Pakistan and northern India, November to February in southern India, December to May in Sri Lanka, May to October in Bangladesh, January to May in Sumatra. Robson reports breeding in Southeast Asia from October to June. I have observed nesting in both July and December.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
3rd December 2019

Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Wetlands, ex-mining ponds

References:
1.
Wells, D.R. (1999) The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passarines). Christopher Helm, London
2. A Checklist of the birds of Malaysia Dec 2016 (v2)
3. Orta, J., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2019). Little Cormorant (Microcarbo niger). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive
4. Muhammad Iqbal, Chairunas Adhaputra, Mistar Kamsi, Desy Hikmatullah. First Confirmed Breeding Records of Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger in Sumatra. Short Communication. Kukila 17 (1) 2013
5. Robson, C. (2002). A Field Guide to Birds of South East Asia. New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd

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