Kawau tūī, little black shag

little black shag

Little black shag, John Gould, Birds of Australia, 1840-48.

Kawau tūī, little black shag

I have been watching this winter a flight of more than 100 little black shags working Ohiwa Harbour together, a sight which no doubt worries the local fishermen. I have often watched them working together, using their outstretched wings to herd fish in the shallows.

To see such a large number of the birds in full flight, streaming low over the harbour, is a wonderful sight, but I have also seen them on a number of occasions just parked on the sandspits airing their wings or just sitting quietly, obviously replete from the day’s fishing.

There is something really appealing to me about shags which may have something to do with their quiet contemplation while perched over water or the way they hang their wings out to dry and I have been finding myself stopping on my travels around the district to observe them and to try and identify the different species. Not an easy thing as they are difficult to approach and usually fly off if one shows any interest in them, retaining some species memory of their past persecution.

There are four types of shags which I see regularly in my neck of the woods in the eastern Bay of Plenty, Kawaupaka, the little shag, or little pied shag, Kawau, the black or great shag, Karuhiruhi, the pied shag, and the little black shag. All very confusing until you know that the little black shag is totally black, black plumage, blackbill and feet.

The little black shag breeds in Australasia east of Borneo and Java, in New Caledonia and the North Island of New Zealand. They nest in large colonies, commonly in willows overhanging fresh water, but sometimes on the ground on islands.

It was first collected by Peale of the American Exploration Expedition at the Bay of Islands in 1840.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Phalacrocoracidae
Genera: Phalacrocorax
Species: sulcirostris
Sub Species:  
Other common names:  —

Little black cormorant.

Description:  — 

Native bird

61 cm., 800 g., wholly black with green gloss, eye green.

Where to find:  — 

Large colonies in the Auckland, Waikato, Rotorua lakes, Lake Taupo, Hawke’s Bay and Lake Wairarapa wetlands. A rare visitor to the South Island.

Poetry:  — 

E kore te kawau e neke i tona tumu tu.

The shag will not move from its stump.

Illustration description: — 

Gould, John, Birds of Australia, 1840-48.

Reference(s): — 

Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.

Oliver, W.R.B. New Zealand Birds, 1955.

Page date & version: — 

Tuesday, 24 October, 2023; ver2023