Shag

Scientific name: Gulosus aristotelis

Did you know: Shags can dive up to 45 metres deep to catch their prey, a feat that’s as impressive as it is vital for their survival!

What Do Shags Look Like? (how to identify them)

Shags are goose-sized waterbirds, draped in dark hues with long, slender necks. Notably, they have a distinct steep forehead and a slight size advantage, making them slimmer and smaller than their cormorant cousins. 

Adults boast a dark, glossy green sheen during breeding season, highlighted by a recurved crest at the head. They typically range between 65-80 cm in length, with a wingspan of about 90-105 cm and weigh around 1750-2250g.

Differences Between Male And Female Shags

Male and female Shags are quite similar in appearance, but keen observers might note the males are generally larger with more pronounced crests during the breeding season. 

Additionally, males might display slightly brighter plumage, a subtle yet fascinating distinction.

What Do Shags Eat?

Shags are proficient divers, primarily feeding on fish, alongside a diet enriched with crustaceans and molluscs. They are known to plunge from the sea’s surface, diving to impressive depths to snatch up their prey. Their long, hook-tipped bills are perfect for such a task, ensuring they never go hungry.

Where Do Shags Live? (inc. migration info)

Shags are residents of the UK’s rocky coasts, with over half the population nesting at fewer than ten sites, particularly in the north and west. These birds are relatively sedentary, usually staying within 100-200 km of their breeding sites. 

Their homes are often found perched atop coastal cliffs or rocky shores, where they can keep a close eye on the surrounding sea.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Shags)

The call of a Shag is a guttural and rasping sound, particularly during the breeding season. It’s not the most melodic of bird songs, but it is distinctive. You might also hear various grunts and growls, especially from chicks or when adults are near the nest.

Fun Shag Facts (kid friendly)

  • Shags have a unique “sunbathing” stance with wings spread wide to dry their feathers after diving.
  • They can live up to 12 years in the wild, quite a lengthy life for birds of their size!
  • Shags aren’t just found in the UK; they breed across many parts of Europe, southwest Asia, and north Africa.
  • Unlike many birds, Shags’ feathers aren’t waterproof, which is why they adopt that distinctive pose to dry off.
  • The name ‘Shag’ is derived from the old term meaning ‘tufted,’ referring to the crest on their head during breeding season.
  • They are part of the Red List for Birds, indicating they are of high conservation concern.
  • Despite their sleek appearance, Shags are actually quite clumsy on land.
  • Young shags are dark in colour and lighten as they age, eventually sporting the glossy green plumage of adults.
  • Shags have been known to dive from the water’s surface to depths of over 40 metres to catch their fishy meals.
  • During the breeding season, you might see Shags performing elaborate displays, including bowing and shaking their heads to attract a mate.

Shag Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Shag

Diet: Fish and occasionally crustacea and molluscs.
Bird Family: Cormorants and shags
Length: 65-80cm
Wingspan: 90-105cm
Weight: 1.75-2.25kg
Scientific Name: Gulosus aristotelis

The Shag Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December