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Shag: the lesser cormorant

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Shag: the lesser cormorant

I am often asked what the difference is between a cormorant and a shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) and the simple answer is that there are many differences when you see them close up and side by side! From a distance, however, they are much harder to separate, the shag being a bit smaller and having darker colouring all over.

However, the best guide, and a pretty reliable one too, is to say cormorants like inland waters (rivers and large lakes) and sandy areas off shore whereas the shag is very much a bird of the cliffs and open sea; indeed I should really have included the shag in the seabird series..

If you see a bird diving in sandy Swanage Bay, for example, it will be a cormorant, but round Peverell Point and head along the Purbecks coast and they will almost certainly then be shag. Take care, though, whilst a good guide it does not always work! Shag can be seen in Poole Harbour sometimes, especially in the winter months and cormorants can be found on open sea.

Finally, a bit of nonsense I learned at primary school: the lesser cormorant or shag lays its eggs inside a paper bag. At night bears come, eating buns, and steal the bags to hold the crumbs.


 

If you would like to see the complete series that this post is part of click here ---->
This nature note was written by ----> Peter Orchard
This nature nore was written ----> 2 years 10 months ago

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