Blue Eyed Shag
 - Phalacrocorax atriceps

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Blue Eyed Shag - Phalacrocorax atriceps

Blue Eyed Shag - Phalacrocorax atriceps - Pair

Blue Eyed Shag - Phalacrocorax atriceps - Coming in to Land

Blue eyed shags are the only member of the cormorants to venture down into the Antarctic proper. They are found particularly along the Scotia arc islands and down the Antarctic peninsula, venturing as far as 68 degrees south. They are characterized by the vivid eye colour and the orange / yellow growth at the base of the beak that becomes particularly large and bright during the breeding season.

They feed mainly on fish frequently forming a "raft" made up of dozens or hundreds of birds that repeatedly dive down onto the shoals below helping each other by panicking the fish into having nowhere to go except into the beak of the next bird. They are excellent divers with a recorded maximum dive of 116m. Once underwater they use their powerful webbed feet to propel themselves.

I used to joke that blue eyed shags got their name because they had a blue eye and you can smoke them - but not enough people got the joke so I stopped.


Photo; © Paul Ward - Pictures taken on Signy Island, South Orkneys, Antarctica.