Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Bird of the Year - why not the shag?

Voting in Forest and Bird's annual Bird of the Year competition is underway this month. Which bird will you vote for? There's already some hot competition with advocates pushing their favourite species. Today, the rare Mohua seems to be ahead, but who knows how the voting will go in the final count.

Shags haven't got many votes yet, perhaps they seem too common to attract attention. Here's a pied shag on Pukerua Bay beach. They have an interesting hook on the end of their beak, which must help them catch fish.
Pied shag

In the last ten years they've established a colony in this tree. At first it looked like they were just roosting in it, but now it's possible to clearly see some nests. (Are they killing the tree through their use of it?) 
Although pied shags might seem common, NZ Birds Online says that the population increase is only in the middle of NZ, that they are declining in the north of the North Island and south of the South Island. There are thought to be only 1000-5000 of the birds, and are considered "nationally vulnerable".

If pied shags still don't appeal, how about these spotted shags? They might seem rarer because they are less likely to live near people, but there are over 20,000 pairs of these birds around New Zealand. They are yellow-footed shags, which nest in cliffs, as you can see here.
Spotted shags, Banks Peninsula
I'll be looking at some other sea or coastal birds in this months blogs.