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Shags and Cormorants

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Can anyone tell me how to tell the difference between shags and coromoants from a distance?
I often see one or the other (but I don't know which) along side dykes and water as we go by in the car, sometimes with their wings spread out just stood there. A few weeks ago there were 7 perched on the top of 7 individual lamp posts in a row which looked funny. The trouble is I get a glimpse and we are gone, I don't get to see any in the NP so I haven't had the chance to observe.

Thanks Smile

Somewhat comparative but shags are more delicate (less chunky) and smaller but as adults shags have something of a "crest" -
The RSPB: Cormorant: Identification

Thanks, I would imagine that they are cormorants I see more often than not then if they are in groups, or the single ones I see could be shags :rolleyes:. They do look so a like.
Now I know what to look out for hopefully I can be more sure of an ID in future, I will keep my eyes peeled!

In my limited experience if they are "relatively" inland - in estuaries (as in London) or reservoirs (as in the English Midlands), for instance, then they are usually cormorants. Shags, around the UK seem to stick to the coasts and islands but I'm not a dedicated bird-watcher and behaviour may be very different on the mainland.

Ultimately it depends on whether they have a quiff or not! That sometimes depends on which direction the wind is blowing! Wink

goosey;5588 wrote:
Thanks, I would imagine that they are cormorants I see more often than not then if they are in groups, or the single ones I see could be shags :rolleyes:. They do look so a like.
Now I know what to look out for hopefully I can be more sure of an ID in future, I will keep my eyes peeled!

There is a note in Wikipedia about how the names Cormorant and Shag were applied to other species elsewhere in the world by the early European sailors.

"There is no consistent distinction between cormorants and shags. The names "cormorant" and "shag" were originally the common names of the two species of the family found in Great Britain, Phalacrocorax carbo (now referred to by ornithologists as the Great Cormorant) and P. aristotelis (the Common Shag). "Shag" refers to the bird's crest, which the British forms of the Great Cormorant lack. As other species were discovered by English-speaking sailors and explorers elsewhere in the world, some were called cormorants and some shags, depending on whether they had crests or not. Sometimes the same species is called a cormorant in one part of the world and a shag in another, e.g., the Great Cormorant is called the Black Shag in New Zealand (the birds found in Australasia have a crest that is absent in European members of the species)".

Cormorant - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In Australia, there are half a dozen species of cormorants.

paul m;5589 wrote:
Ultimately it depends on whether they have a quiff or not!

The quiff is only present during the summer/breeding season, the smaller more dainty appearance is the better way of telling, its usually easy with experience. In flight shags also have a more rapid wing beat.

Gosh! never heard of a SHAG,[="1"]well you know what i mean[/]

So i have changed the name of my CORMORANT in my gallery cause it looks more like a shag:D thanks guys:)

Dont worry, this is a cormorant. The big white cheek patch isnt present on shags. Smile

great eyesight H Dogg.Thankyou

Telling Shags from Cormorants in the UK and most of Europe is fairly easy once you get your eye in, if you get a side view of the head, a silhouette will do you don't need detail of plumage just the shape.
The Shag has a long but lightly built bill but if you look at the forehead you will see that it is quit high, giving an almost 90 degree angle from the bill, this rises up to a hump above the eye making this the highest part of the head, this is true at all ages and sexes throughout the year, the back of the head is rounede and flows smoothly into the neck.
The Great Cormorant has a heavier beak which is deeper at the base than the tip giving a tapered appearance, the forehead is shallow rising gently to a high point at the back of the head where it then turns sharply down so that the nape is almost vertical in resting birds.

So in summery a lightly built bird with the highest part of the head above the eye is a Shag, a heavily built bird with the highest part of the head at the back is a Great Cormorant. As has already been stated Shags are rarely seen inland on fresh water.

Hope this helps, Ferret

Thanks Ferrett,

Guess i should get it right next time,Eh!:o

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