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How to tell cormorants and shags apart

Bird notes

In February 2008 I wrote a short article for the Banner on these closely related species. From various recent contacts with readers I felt a need to revisit this subject with the intention of trying to help with the identification of these easily confused species.

Both cormorants and shags are common round the coast of Arran throughout the year, but on Arran the shag is much more numerous than the cormorant. Both have breeding colonies on Pladda. Both are black, fish eating birds that sit low in the water with heads up-tilted. Both dive from the surface of the water with a quick arching forward leap that takes them clear of the surface of the water. After fishing, both cormorant and shag can be seen standing upright on a rock with their wings held out to dry. In other words, both in looks and behaviour, they are very similar.

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