Phalacrocorax aristotelis - European shag:

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Summary Information
Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Ciconiiformes / Phalacrocoracidae / Phalacrocorax / Species
Alternative Names European shag, Kuifaalscholver (Dutch), Cormoron huppé (French), Krähenscharbe (German), Cormorán moñudo (Spanish), Toppskarve (Swedish)
Description Length:
  • 65-80 cm (B2); 68-80 cm (B1).


  • about 2 kg (B1).

External Appearance:

  • Adult: Eye bright green, Bill black, with yellow at base of mandible, legs black. Upperparts and underparts green-glossed black, head has forward-curving crest on top. Mantle, scapulars and upper wing coverts edged in velvet-black, centres purple-tinged. Neck: tiny white filoplumes between feathers in fresh plumage.
  • Juvenile: Eye: yellow-white, Bill: pale pink-brown, legs: black with yellow-brown webs. Upperparts faintly green-glossed dark brown, sides of head and underparts paler, chin, centre of throat, breast and abdomen variable areas brownish-white
  • Nestling: Eye: light brown, skin: brown, Down: brown

(B1.w3, B2)

Range and Habitat
  • Phalacrocorax aristotelis aristotelis Northern and western Europe, from Iceland and northern Scandinavia south to Iberian Peninsula
  • Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii Central Mediterranean eastwards to Black Sea
  • Phalacrocorax aristotelis riggenbachi north-west Africa - coast of Morocco

London: In the London Area, "irregular visitor, occasionally in good numbers. Usually occurs in winter, but may stay for long periods." Peak sightings are usually in mid-December. In 2000, individuals seen on several reservoirs, also on the Thames at Wandsworth Park, and in Inner London, in Regent's Park. (J322.65.w1)

Accidental: Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland, Rumania, Israel, Iraq, Egypt, Malta, Germany.

Movements: Sedentary to dispersive. Post breeding dispersal sometimes long distances. Some populations residential.

Habitat: Coastal marine - rocky coastlines and islets, uses sheltered bays, rarely estuaries, exceptionally inland.

(B1.w3, B2, B19)

Further Information
  • Food: fish, also crustaceans.
  • Feeding: By pursuit-diving; mainly fish in midwater, also take bottom-dwelling fish.
  • Breeding: On seacliffs, rocks and stacks, also on ground in shelter of boulders/bushes, and islets. Nest of seaweed, lined with grass, built by both parents; sites often re-used. 1-6 eggs (average three), 30-31 days incubation by both parents (starts after second egg laid), hatching asynchronous, chicks altricial and nidicolous, cared for and fed (partial regurgitation direct from bill) by both parents, fledge about 53 days, parental care continued further 15-20 days, sometimes 50 days or more; first breed at three, more commonly four years old. Replacement clutch laid if eggs lost.
  • Breeding behaviour: Usually seasonally monogamous; pair bond regularly maintained in successive seasons, particularly if breeding successful. Simultaneous "bigamy" (polygamy) in 3-5% where shortage of good nesting sites.
  • Social behaviour: Less gregarious than Phalacrocorax carbo - Cormorant. Usually solitary in winter, although large numbers may be fishing independently in dense shoals of fish.

(B1.w3, B2)

Organisations (UK Contacts):

Electronic Library (further reading):

General Legislation:

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Individual techniques:

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