Family Cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae)

Least Concern

Spotted Shag (Phalacrocorax punctatus)


French: Cormoran moucheté German: Tüpfelscharbe Spanish: Cormorán moteado

Pelicanus [sic] punctatus


, 1786,

Queen Charlotte Sound, South Island, New Zealand


Sometimes placed in genus Stictocarbo or occasionally in Leucocarbo. In past, often considered conspecific with P. featherstoni. Considerable variation in prenuptial and nuptial plumages makes definitition of races difficult and uncertain, and species may be better regarded as monotypic. Two subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. p. punctatus (Sparrman, 1786) – coastal New Zealand (North I, N & E South I).
  • P. p. oliveri Mathews, 1930 – coasts of W South I (Westland) and Stewart I.
  • Descriptive notes

    64–74 cm; 700–1670 g; wingspan 91–99 cm. Short-tailed shag with long thin bill. Breeding adult has two obvious crests of upcurved feathers, one on forecrown... read more


    Rather silent away from breeding area, but occasionally utters low-pitched grunts at resting or... read more


    Marine. Forages in fairly deep offshore waters, up to 16 km from coast, but also in bays, inlets... read more

    Food and feeding

    Very little known, but apparently fish, crustaceans and other invertebrates. Feeds mainly by pursuit-diving. Can form feeding flocks,... read more


    Laying Sept–Nov in South I, but season longer in North I, with peaks in late Aug, Dec and Mar. Forms colonies of variable size. Nests... read more


    Mostly local movements, with dispersal along coasts in winter; birds breeding at Banks Peninsula (E... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Total population estimated at 60,000–150,000 birds in early 1980s; locally abundant in South I, e.g. 10,000 nests on Banks... read more

    Recommended citation

    Orta, J., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2019). Spotted Shag (Phalacrocorax punctatus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 17 August 2019).