New Zealand Shags

Of the world's 36 species of shag 12 are found in New Zealand and 8 of these are endemic. Members of the shag family belong to three groups, based on the colour of their feet: black, yellow or pink. Outside New Zealand, the black-footed shags are better known as cormorants. Shags have webbed feet but also fly underwater using their wings, as penguins do.

The edges of their beaks are sharp to grip prey such as small fish. The feathers of shags can become waterlogged so if the shag fishes for too long without drying out it's feathers it can become ill from hypothermia. That is why shags are often seen with wings outstretched drying in the wind and or sun on land.

The most familiar shags in New Zealand are the black (Phalacrocorax carbo), white-throated (P. melanoleucos), and pied (P. varius) of shore and inland waters and the spotted shag (P. punctatus), of rocky coasts.

© Paul Knight

Spotted Shag of New Zealand

Spotted Shag of New Zealand

© Steven Reekie

© Steven Reekie

Shag of New Zealand

© nhc
© Paul Knight