This immature Spotted Shag has been living at Bexley Wetland for the past few weeks while he underwent a moult.
This is the first time I've been able to get close to him.
a sizeable group of spotted shag were rooting on a sandbank at the mouth of Ashley River. I was able to observe comings and goings for some time before the tide finally covered the bank and the birds moved on.
Present were adults in breeding plumage, non-breeding plumage and juveniles in mottled brown plumage. This group of birds is regularly on this bank at low tides and quite tolerant of the whitebaiters that surround them at this time of year.
A species of cormorant endemic to New Zealand. 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. 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. 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.