Shags birds are cool birds with more than 40 different species found all over the world!
You’ve got coastal shags, like the Great Cormorant and Pelagic Cormorant, that can swim and dive for fish.
Then you’ve got inland shags, like the Little Cormorant and African Darter, which hang around freshwater places and are a bit smaller.
With their webbed feet and waterproof feathers, these birds can dive to depths of up to 45 meters and stay under for a minute!
In this post, we’ll look into the history of shags, where they live, and how they differ from cormorants.
Let’s dive in!
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SHAGS BIRDS
There are over 40 species of shags that can be found in various parts of the world. These birds can be divided into two main categories: coastal shags and inland shags.
- COASTAL SHAGS
Coastal shags are birds that live near the ocean and are known for their ability to swim and dive for fish. Some of the most common coastal shags include:
- INLAND SHAGS
Inland shags are birds that live near freshwater sources, such as lakes and rivers. These birds are smaller than coastal shags and are known for their ability to swim and dive for fish. Some of the most common inland shags include:
|COASTAL SHAGS||INLAND SHAGS|
|Great Cormorant (Phalacrocoraxcarbo)||Little Cormorant (Microcarbo niger)|
|Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)||Indian Cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis)|
|Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus)||African Darter (Anhinga rufa)|
|Brandt’s Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)||Australasian Darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae)|
|Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)||Relationship with Seabirds|
WHY ARE SHAGS CALLED SHAGS? | HISTORY OF SHAGS
Here are the necessary informations about shags birds:
EARLY USE OF THE WORD “SHAG”
For centuries, the term “shag” referred to a form of rough, tangled hair or fabric in English.
The word’s earliest recorded use was in the 14th century when shag was used to designate a form of woolen cloth.
By the 16th century, the term “shag” had evolved to refer to rough, untidy hair or fur.
CONNECTION WITH SEABIRDS
The term “shag” was first used to describe a bird in the 17th century when shag was applied to the Cormorant.
Yet, the word shag was later connected with a different bird: the shag.
The shag is a species of seabird allied to the Cormorant. With a long neck, slim body, and crest of feathers on its head, it has a striking appearance.
It is also well-known for diving underwater to capture fish.
The exact origins of the term “shag” concerning this bird are unknown. However, it is most likely derived from the bird’s rough, shaggy look.
The tuft of feathers on its head may have also influenced the name choice.
WHERE DO SHAGS LIVE?
Shags can be found in various parts of the world, including Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and North and South America.
These birds are often found near water sources, such as oceans, lakes, rivers, and wetlands.
Coastal shags tend to live near rocky shorelines, while inland shags prefer freshwater sources surrounded by vegetation.
Shags have adapted to different environments, and their habitats can vary depending on the species.
For example, the Great Cormorant is known to live in coastal areas with rocky cliffs, while the Indian Cormorant can be found near shallow freshwater sources surrounded by trees and vegetation.
HOW LONG CAN SHAGS STAY UNDERWATER?
They can stay submerged for a while; a king shag once dove for more than three minutes in the Marlborough Sounds to get a bite to eat, and a pied shag even lasted over three and a half minutes!
But, just like penguins, they’re pretty uncoordinated on land. These are the two blessings of the shags birds because of that they can easily stay underwater:
- Webbed Feet
Shags have webbed feet, which help them swim and dive for fish. These birds can swim to depths of up to 45 meters and hold their breath for up to a minute while underwater.
- Waterproof Feathers
Shags have waterproof feathers that allow them to stay dry while swimming and diving. These feathers also help the birds float on the water’s surface. Does shags and other male birds have balls?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHAGS AND CORMORANTS?
Shags and cormorants may appear and behave similarly, but some key distinctions distinguish them such as:
|SIZE AND WEIGHT||
Cormorants are generally larger and heavier than shags. They can reach up to 40 inches in length and weigh up to 11 pounds.
One of the most striking differences between cormorants and shags is their plumage. Cormorants have dark, glossy feathers that appear almost black, while shags have a greenish-black iridescent plumage.
|LEGS AND BILLS||
Cormorants have hooked bills and webbed feet with sharp claws that help them catch fish underwater. They can also swim using their wings, which are not waterproof.
SIZE AND WEIGHT
Shags are smaller than cormorants, measuring around 28 inches in length and weighing up to 3 pounds.
As mentioned earlier, shags have a greenish-black iridescent plumage that appears darker in color compared to cormorants. Their feathers are also more compact and sleek.
LEGS AND BILLS
Shags have a thin, pointed bills and webbed feet with less prominent claws compared to cormorants. They are excellent swimmers and divers, able to hold their breath for up to a minute while hunting for fish underwater.
IS A CORMORANT A DUCK OR A GOOSE?
No, a cormorant isn’t the same as a duck. It’s nothing like a duck – it looks, behaves, and functions differently.
Cormorants are great hunters and have awesome swimming skills, which explains why they eat so much.
Ducks, on the other hand, don’t hunt. They use their wings to help them swim.
Cormorants are frequently confused with ducks and geese because of their similar look. However, they have significant morphological distinctions that distinguish them.
Cormorants are larger than ducks and geese, with longer necks and more streamlined bodies.
They also have a hooked beak that they use to capture fish, whereas ducks and geese have flat bills that they use to graze on vegetation.
Cormorants, like ducks and geese, have webbed feet, but their toes are not webbed, allowing them to swim and dive more effectively.
Lastly, unlike ducks and geese, cormorants have colorful patches of skin on their face and throat.
HOW MANY EGGS DO SHAGS LAY?
Shags birds normally lay 2-4 eggs in each clutch, with an average clutch size of 3 eggs.
Nevertheless, the number of eggs deposited might vary based on many circumstances, including the parents’ health and age, food supply, and the environment in which they stay.
In conclusion, shags birds are a diverse group of birds globally near water.
They’re well known for their awesome swimming and diving skills, which they owe to their webbed feet and feathers that repel water.
The difference between coastal and inland shags and shags and cormorants has been highlighted too.
No one’s sure why they’re called shags – maybe because they look hairy.
We hope you’d love reading this article!
WHAT COLOUR ARE SHAGS?
Shags birds look like geese but are much smaller – like cormorants, but skinnier.
They have sloping foreheads and get a glossy green color during the breeding season.
ARE SHAGS CARNIVORES?
European shags mainly look for food on the bottom of the ocean, usually eating a wide range of fish, with sand eel being the most usual.
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