Spotted shag

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Spotted shag
Phalacrocorax punctatus AucklandZoo.1001.JPG
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Suliformes
Family: Phalacrocoracidae
Genus: Phalacrocorax
Species: P. punctatus
Binomial name
Phalacrocorax punctatus
Sparrman, 1786

The spotted shag or parekareka (Phalacrocorax punctatus) is a species of cormorant endemic to New Zealand. Originally classified as Phalacrocorax punctatus, it is sufficiently different in appearance from typical members of that genus that to be for a time placed in a separate genus, Stictocarbo, along with another similar species, the Pitt shag.


Juvenile, note spots on back and wings

Compared with typical cormorants, the spotted shag is a light-coloured bird. Its back is brown. Its belly is pale blue-grey (often appearing white), and the white continues up the sides of the neck and face, but the throat and the top of the head are dark blue-green. In the mating season, it has an obvious double crest. There is little sexual dimorphism.

Spotted shags feed at sea, often in substantial flocks, taking its prey from mid-water rather than the bottom. It is likely that pilchard and anchovy are important prey species.

Spotted shags nest in colonies of 10-700 pairs, these colonies are generally found on the ledges of coastal cliffs (see photo at right) or on rocky islets.[2] In the South Island, they are particularly readily observed around Banks Peninsula; there is a large nesting colony immediately south of the city of Christchurch. In Wellington Harbour there is a large colony on a rocky outcrop known as "Shag Rock" just off the south-west end of Matiu/Somes Island.[3] In the Hauraki Gulf there is a breeding colony on Tarahiki Island.

The spotted shag was featured on a 60-cent New Zealand postage stamp first issued in 1988, in a series devoted to native birds.

In flight, in breeding plumage (note the double crests)
Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Phalacrocorax punctatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Barrie Heather and Hugh Robertson, "The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand" (revised edition), Viking, 2005
  3. ^, accessed on 6 March 2007

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