European Shag

Phalacrocorax aristotelis

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The European shag has black, metallic-greenish plumage with a purple sheen on the wings and a small feathered cap of elongated and forward-turned crest feathers. The word "Scharbe" in the European shag's German name (Krähenscharbe) is said to derive from this cap, "skarf" in Scandinavian. The European shag is somewhat smaller and slimmer than the cormorant. The latter lacks the feathered cap in its plumage, its lower bill is not yellow and it has white patches on its flanks, head and neck. Shags breed on the European Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean in rocky coastal areas, on cliffs and in crevices, usually in loose colonies. This means that the nests are widely distributed. They occupy the lower shelves on large bird cliffs. The birds are sexually mature from about 3 years of age. The nests are built from branches and brushwood and padded with vegetation. The clutch comprises between 1 and 6 eggs and is incubated by both adults for about 28 to 29 days. The chicks are initially bald and after about a week develop down and are fledged after about 55 days. European shags are resident birds or partial migrants. This means that most birds remain in their breeding grounds in winter or only migrate relatively short distances along the shoreline. They are only very rarely found inland, mostly as vagrant birds. Their food, fish, is almost exclusively foraged at sea and often in groups. When diving, they use their feet as paddles, as well as their wings.

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