Cotton pygmy goose

Smaller than most iPads, meet the tiniest duck in the world

Prasanna_Mamidala – Mprasannak

Despite being referred to as a goose, it is much more duck-like in its behaviors and size. The common name “pygmy” refers to its diminutive stature, and “cotton” is a nod to its delicate, fluffy white feathers, particularly noticeable in the male’s back and wings.

Found in tropical Asia, from Pakistan and India to southeast Asia and Queensland in Australia, this species is known for its preference for small, still bodies of water rich in floating vegetation. Cotton pygmy geese are often seen in pairs or small groups, inhabiting ponds, swamps, and rice fields. Their habitat selection is crucial for their feeding habits, as they tend to forage on the water’s surface, picking off vegetation, seeds, and small aquatic organisms.

These geese are notable for their striking appearance. Males have a glossy green-black cap, a white head, neck, and underparts, and a prominent black collar around the neck during the breeding season. Females and non-breeding males are more subdued in color, with greyish-brown plumage and less contrasting features. Both sexes, however, display the characteristic bright white wing coverts that give them their name.

The cotton pygmy goose’s breeding season is synchronized with the monsoon rains, which expand their aquatic habitats and food supply. They are cavity nesters, often choosing to breed in tree hollows near water, which provides protection from predators. The increase in water level during the rainy season also facilitates more efficient foraging and chick rearing.

The social behavior of these birds is quite fascinating. They tend to roost in communal groups, and during the non-breeding season, they may congregate in large flocks, which can number in the thousands. Such gatherings are most likely for both safety and social interaction.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Afghanistan
2016
Passage
Australia
2016
Breeding
Bahrain
2016
Non-Breeding
Bangladesh
2016
Cambodia
2016
China
2016
Hong Kong
2016
India
2016
Indonesia
2016
Iran
2016
Non-Breeding
Iraq
2016
Non-Breeding
Japan
2016
Seasonality Uncertain
Jordan
2016
Vagrant
Laos
2016
Malaysia
2016
Maldives
2016
Vagrant
Myanmar
2016
Non-Breeding
Nepal
2016
Oman
2016
Seasonality Uncertain
Pakistan
2016
Papua New Guinea
2016
Breeding
Philippines
2016
Qatar
2016
Vagrant
Saudi Arabia
2016
Non-Breeding
Singapore
2016
Sri Lanka
2016
Taiwan
2016
Seasonality Uncertain
Thailand
2016
UAE
2016
Non-Breeding
Vietnam
2016
Yemen
2016
Non-Breeding

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No