An example of this magnificent species was collected by Forster in Queen Charlotte Sound during Cook’s second voyage. Forster’s description of Pelecanus carunculatus was not published until 1844 but Latham described his “Carunculated shag” from Forster’s specimen and painting, and Gmelin in 1789 latinised Latham’s name.
The Russian explorer Bellinghausen visited Queen Charlotte Sound in 1820 and collected “cormorants with a bluish eye membrane”.
It was not until 1875 when H.H. Travers collected the species again in Queen Charlotte Sound that its proper status in the New Zealand avifauna was established.
This shag is a sedentary species, never going far from its breeding place. It has never been reported as common.
Members of the shag family belong to three groups, based on the colour of their feet: black, yellow or pink. Outside New Zealand, the black-footed shags are better known as cormorants. Pink-footed shags belong to the Leucocarbo genus. They are part of a group of cold-water shags found on islands in the Southern Ocean, on the Antarctic Peninsula and the south coasts of Australia and South America. They all feed at sea. The six New Zealand species are found nowhere else. They nest on rock rather than in trees, which are absent in many of their habitats.