Shag - Phalacrocorax aristotelis


Slimmer and smaller than Cormorant, with thinner neck, more rounded head and thinner bill. In flight neck straighter than Cormorant. Adult black with green sheen in breeding plumage and wings tinged purplish. Gape yellow, contrasting with dark surround, including the bill. Has upcurved crest during early breeding season. Slightly duller with less gloss in non-breeding plumage and chin pale with yellowish bill. Juvenile is dark brown above and pale brown below with whitish chin.

Similar Species

Cormorant is the only likely confusing species in the UK, which larger and has an heavier bill but can be confused at long range.

Identification difficulty

Essentially a bird of the rocky coasts that does not range too far from shore.

When to see it

In the UK it can be seen all year, mainly in north and west on rocky coast during the breeding season but tends to be more widespread in the winter with records from all around the coast, although it is still unusual away from breeding areas.

Life History

Adults probably don’t stray far from breeding colonies, which can be deserted for a few months. Large winter concentrations in suitable habitat are not unusual.

UK Status

It is a common breeding bird in the north and west of the UK with a slight range extension over the last forty years. Numbers of birds breeding each year does fluctuate but there has been a slight reduction in recent years.

VC55 Status

It is a scarce winter visitor with the majority between August and February but it has been recorded in all months.

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map