Pied Shag

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Tue 24 Dec 2013 23:57
The Pied Shag
 
 
 
 
 
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Spuddling in and out of the marina in Baby Beez, we have to pass by the far end of the Quarantine Dock used as an ordinary berth. The space at the end has become a meeting, preening and resting place of the local pied shag – a new chap on us – known locally as karuhiruhi. Shags are swift underwater swimmers, with a sharp hooked beak to help them catch fish and small crustaceans. They are often seen sitting on a perch with their wings spread out, drying their feathers. This is because a shag’s feathers are not waterproof. This makes it easier for them to dive and stay under water for an average of 20 to 30 seconds per dive (the observed record is 225 seconds).  But it also means the birds quickly get waterlogged and cold. So after a bout of fishing, shags must spend a lot of time preening and drying to restore their feathers and warm up.
 
 
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A good tidy up..............
 
 
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............but fluffy bits get stuck to the beak, not a good look.
 

It is probably the pied shag that Sir Joseph Banks refers to in the following quoted at Mercury Bay on the 10th of November 1769:- “The water was shoal so we agreed to stop our disquisition here and go ashore and dine. A tree in the neighbourhood on which were many shag’s nests and old shags sitting by them confirmed our resolution. An attack was consequently made on the shags and about twenty were soon killed, and so soon broiled and eaten, everyone declaring that they were excellent food, as indeed I think they were.”

 
 
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A bit of strutting.
 
 
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Lovely eyes.
 
 
There are thirty six species of shag in the world, twelve live in New Zealand and of those eight are endemic. Members of the shag family belong to three groups based on the colour of their feet:- black, yellow or pink. This chap is black-footed.
In New Zealand, all members of the Phalacrocoracidae are called shags. Outside New Zealand, the black-footed shags are better known as cormorants. According to Schuckard, the names "cormorant" and "shag" were originally the common names of the two species of the family found in Great Britain, the Great Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo and the European Shag, P. aristotelis. The name shag is thought to refer to the shaggy crest some species have on their heads, especially during breeding season, which the British forms of the Great Cormorant lack but the same species is called the Black Shag in New Zealand where it has a small crest on upper nape and neck. Despite this confusion, taxonomists still propose to divide the family into two genera with the name "Cormorant" and "Shag". The proposed division into subfamily Phalacrocoracinae "cormorants" and Leucocarboninae "shags" does indeed have some degree of merit although the entire family cannot be clearly divided at present beyond the super species or species-complex level. Several evolutionary groups are still recognisable, but a great deal of convergent evolution, such as cliff shags, is complicating matters. The resolution provided by the mtDNA is not sufficient to properly resolve several groups to satisfaction. In addition, many species remain unsampled for DNA, the fossil record has not been integrated in the data, and the effects of hybridisation, known in some Pacific species, on the DNA sequence data, are unstudied.

 

 

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The pied shag is found exclusively in Australia and New Zealand, wintering along the whole coast and inland in both countries. It was first described from New Zealand by Latham, who used the specimens collected at Queen Charlotte Sound by Forster during Captain James Cook’s second voyage. This species is mainly marine, but occupies a variety of water bodies both offshore, on the coast and inland. Fish comprise roughly 90% of its diet, but it will also feed on crustaceans, and a few molluscs and cephalopods. It feeds exclusively by pursuit-diving and often forms feeding flocks at sea. Its breeding season varies considerably with region and year depending on local conditions, generally forming colonies in a variety of habitats, coastal islands, flooded tree plains, mangroves and sometimes on artificial structures such as beacons. The large nest is constructed from seaweed, twigs or sticks cemented together with droppings, and is placed in a tree or on the ground. Both parents build the nest, incubate the eggs and feed the young. Adults are basically sedentary, staying close to home, with juveniles dispersing widely. Babies will dive in the water, even before they can fly, if they feel threatened or see a predator, such as a kāhu (the Australasian harrier), the young chicks are very good at climbing back up to the nest.

 

 

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ALL IN ALL HANDSOME CHAPS

                     VERY HANDSOME INDEED