Shag on grass, Farne Island

Cormorants and shags

These are large, dark water birds. In the UK there are just two species, one essentially marine, the other found on all kinds of waters. Many other species are found in seas worldwide.

They are long-bodied, quite large-tailed birds, with broad wings and long necks, and a general shape somewhere between divers and geese. They have short, thick legs, showing a relationship to gannets by the fact that webs join all four toes. Their bills are thick and hooked at the tip, helping to grasp fish, which they catch by diving under water. Characteristic behaviour includes standing with wings held half open.