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European Shag: 15 Facts You Won't Believe!

Come join us and enjoy some fascinating European shag facts!

Here is a bird endemic to the Palaearctic regions: the European shag! The common shag  (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) is a member of the cormorant family.

This bird is a common sight along the coasts of north Africa, southwest Asia, western as well as the southern parts of Europe.

This bird is also simply referred to as the shag! Thankfully, this species has been listed as a species of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List. Know this, the shag becomes even more beautiful and vibrant around the months of the breeding season. So watch out for these birds around this season along any coast close to a good fishing site!

For more relatable content, check out these myna bird facts and mountain bluebird facts for kids.

European Shag Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a European shag?

The Phalacrocorax aristotelis is a type of shag bird, belonging to the cormorant family

What class of animal does a European shag belong to?

The shags belong to the class of birds.

How many European shags are there in the world?

The recent estimates of the population of the European shags are not available. However, it was estimated that there were about 26,600 birds of this species left in the year 2002.

Where do European shags live?

You can spot the shags in regions of southern and western Europe, North Africa, and even southwest parts of Asia.

What is a European shag's habitat?

The Phalacrocorax aristotelis is found breeding near rocky, marine coasts of its geographical range. You can even find them settled on islands. The European shag habitat is rarely inland. They prefer their habitats to be near clear waters, settling over rocky substrates or on the sand. They usually avoid muddy, brackish, and fresh water bodies.

Who do European shags live with?

They either live alone or in large colonies.

How long do European shags live?

Some reports state that the shag lives up to 15 years, while some state that the shag lives up to 30 long years!

How do they reproduce?

The shag is known to breed along the coast. They have monogamous relationships and maintain their pairs for many years. They make their nests either in small caves, rocky ledges or between the crevices. The nests are made of twigs, marine debris, or plant matter, and are used throughout the years. The breeding season varies according to their range. Usually, the breeding season would start in late February, however, some may take their own time in the season and begin until after May. Usually, a clutch has three eggs though it can vary between 1-6 eggs. These eggs are of a pale blue hue. The incubation lasts for almost an entire month. The little chicks hatch open but depend completely on their parents for at least a period of two months until they can be independent and learn to fly. Fledgling might occur somewhere between the months of June to August, and rarely in October. Usually, the male hatchlings are bigger in size than the female ones. Female birds reach their maturity period at the age of two years.

The green shag is known to stay within 62.14-124.27 mi (100-200 km) of their breeding sites. It is said that the larger the nests, the more is the success of these birds in breeding.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the Phalacrocorax aristotelis in the IUCN Red List is 'Least Concern'.

European Shag Fun Facts

What do European shags look like?

Upon spotting the shag, you can see its black plumage having a slight green tint on it. Other parts of their body sporting a black hue are their bills, feet, and even legs. The base of the bill has a bright yellow hue, and they are proud owners of turquoise eyes. They also possess a small black crest that slowly develops during the breeding season. It is also around this time when their plumage slowly turns green. Their feet are webbed.

Non-breeding shags are clearly differentiable from the breeding ones - they have much duller plumage, paler chin, and more prominent yellow beaks. Young birds of this species have brown plumage and has paler areas throughout various parts such as their underparts and the head. Their tails have 12 feathers, which have a metallic green sheen on them. The presence of this hue gives the bird an alternate name of the ‘green cormorant’.

The shag is a little smaller than the great cormorant and has a thinner bill as well. Overall, it can be listed as an average-sized bird.

The common shag has a small black crest.

How cute are they?

We do not find the shag bird cute.

How do they communicate?

There is not much known about the conversation manners between the shags. However, it is known that these birds are silent if they are away from their colonies. However, within their groups, they all make clicking sounds. Male shag birds are known to make grunts as well for communicating, such as ‘ark-ik ark-ik’ sounds. They also communicate with their body postures during mating.

How big is a European shag?

The European shag size can be described by its total body length, which is about 25.5-31.5 in (65-80 cm) big. Their wingspan extends up to about 35.4-41.3 in (90-105 cm).

This would make them about 15 times the size of a bee hummingbird.

How fast can European shags fly?

Unfortunately, we are not aware of how fast these birds can fly!

How much does a European shag weigh?

The green shag weight is averaged to be about 3.86-5 lb (1.75-2.25 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names for male and female shags.

What would you call a baby European shag?

There is no specific name for a baby shag bird. However, young birds are known as hatchlings, nestlings or chicks.

What do they eat?

The green cormorant is a prime carnivore. These shags hunt for food alone usually. However, if the prey conditions are favourable, these birds hunt in large groups. Their diet is almost entirely aquatic. Almost every small fish is a part of their meal. Apart from fish, they feed on crustaceans like small crabs, sand eels, polychaete worms, mollusks, eels, and even cephalopods. They dive deep into the water to luck out their food.

Are they dangerous?

No, these birds are not dangerous.

Would they make a good pet?

These birds prefer staying away on an island to mingling with the human population.

Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.

Did you know...

There are three known subspecies of the shag bird.

Phalacrocorax aristotelis aristotelis: which is spotted in the northwestern regions of Europe, mainly near the Atlantic coasts

Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii: you can spot this bird in southwest Asia, along the Black Sea and Mediterranean coasts, and even in southern parts of Europe

Phalacrocorax aristotelis riggenbachi: this bird is mainly noticed in the coast of north western Africa

If you go to England, you would find this bird is referred to as ‘shag’, without having the ‘European’ prefix term.

The scientific name of this bird, Phalacrocorax, comes from the Ancient Greek terms, ‘phalakros’, which translates to ‘bald’, and ‘korax’, which means ‘raven’.

The species name of the green cormorant, aristotelis, is used to commemorate Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher.

These birds spend their winter months along any coast which would have a good supply of food.

Some of the main breeding sites of the Shag bird are Faroe and Cíes Islands in Spain,Galicia in Croatia, Farne Islands in England, Saltee Islands in Ireland, Runde in Norway, Isle of May, Deerness and Fowlsheugh in Scotland, Iceland, Denmark, Dalmatia and Istria.

The largest observed colony of these birds is located in the Cíes Islands of Spain, having about 2500 shag pairs.

There have been reports made on observing the colony in Scotland that the chick diet composition has seen diversity due to the warming of the oceans.

Some of the known predators of the shag are the American mink, eagles, corvids, raptors, and even gulls. They are even hunted for food.

Are European shags an endemic species?

Yes! Shags are endemic to the regions of the Mediterranean as well as the northeast Atlantic. An endemic species is a species that is completely native to the place they are found.

Why are shags called shags?

The name 'shag' is actually quite old. The meaning of the name shag is 'tufted', which is used in reference to the small crest possessed by the shag.

For more relatable content, check out these pitta bird facts and vesper sparrow facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring on one of our free printable European shag coloring pages.

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