Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Pied shag

with 25 comments

Pied Shag on Rock 6222

On February 20th along Moa Point Rd. in the southern part of Wellington, on a rock in the sea I spied this Phalacrocorax varius, known natively as kāruhiruhi and in English as a pied shag, which is a type of cormorant. From what I’ve read, pied shags aren’t too skittish around people, and this one stayed put as I gradually approached. It might well have let me get even closer, but by the time I took this picture I’d already made my way forward across all the rocks I could, and getting any nearer would have meant getting wet.

For information about pied shags beyond what the first link provided, here’s a second.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 9, 2015 at 5:31 AM

25 Responses

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  1. I guess they have gotten over being eaten by Captain Cook et al, and no longer fear ending up on the dinner plate.


    April 9, 2015 at 6:08 AM

    • From what you’ve said, this type of shag is no longer afraid of being cooked and becoming the main ingredient in a pie.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2015 at 6:17 AM

  2. Lovely photo.

    Raewyn's Photos

    April 9, 2015 at 3:53 PM

  3. Bravo, Amy. Excellent photography!

  4. Plenty of resolution here–if you’d ventured further into the wet zone (which I fully trust you to do when the occasion calls for it), you’d have had to back off on your zoom. The composition is ideal and so is the lighting. Nothing shaggy at all, apart from the willing subject.


    April 9, 2015 at 10:11 PM

    • I think you’re giving me too much credit, Gary. I’ve been known to walk in some precarious places for the sake of a photograph, but I’ve very rarely into water for that purpose; gotta protect my camera equipment, after all.

      I like your conclusion that there’s nothing shaggy here apart from the willing subject.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2015 at 3:01 AM

  5. The sea is shimmering like silk behind your subject. A nice contrast with the rough, brown rocks and your feathery shag. 🙂


    April 10, 2015 at 2:51 AM

    • All those shimmering and shallowly sinuous curves appeal to me too, Jane, and I agree that they make a nice contrast, both in color and texture, with the rocks. As I recall, the rocks I’d crossed to get to the spot from which I took this picture were a similar color but not as rough nor as wet.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2015 at 3:08 AM

  6. “Cormorant” was my first thought, because of the body shape and the bill, but this one’s colors are so appealing, and so very different from what we see here.

    I like the way you’ve captured the water on both sides of the bird’s rock, too. The way it’s changed from silky to roiled is an especially nice detail. I suspect the rocks you’re standing on are deflecting those little swells and causing the disturbance.


    April 10, 2015 at 7:25 AM

    • As with ferns, so with cormorants: I know almost nothing about them, not even enough to know the difference between the one in today’s picture and the ones we have on the Texas coast. I just checked out the pictures in Tveten’s The Birds of Texas, so I see what you mean. While there, I also learned that Phalacrocorax is from the Greek for ‘bald raven’ and that cormorant is from Romance for ‘sea crow.’ Apparently Europeans were familiar with crows and ravens before they encountered cormorants.

      It’s reasonable for you to surmise that the rocks I was standing on caused the roiling of the water between the shag and me, but the picture is deceiving: I used a telephoto lens, and there was more water in between the bird and me than you’d think. As a result, I’ll say it was probably the rocks the shag was on that caused the change in the surface of the water. Whatever the cause, the picture benefits by having two textures instead of one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2015 at 8:26 AM

  7. Whenever I hear the word “pied” I can’t help but think a clown just did his/her thing with a creamed delight.

    Pretty nice shot for a flower portrait guy. I don’t think you needed to get any closer…it is a nice environmental shag portrait.

    Steve Gingold

    April 11, 2015 at 4:09 AM

    • I hope you were sitting on your shag carpet when you looked at this environmental shag portrait. By coincidence, shortly before I saw your comment I was thinking that for someone who’s not much of a bird photographer, I ended up with more bird pictures in New Zealand in four weeks than I normally do in Austin in a year.

      The word pied made me think of the Pied Piper as well as a pie of the edible kind (and for you of the throwable kind).

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2015 at 8:22 AM

      • And I thought I would see something with blotches of colour like a piebald horse.. Is it in this case more to describe the back feathers being darker? Very distinct photo. Good cooperative model, hope you said thank you.


        May 10, 2015 at 5:13 PM

        • I’ve looked online a little but I didn’t find an explanation of why this bird is described as pied.

          I’m not sure I thanked the model, but I’ll do so retroactively.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 10, 2015 at 9:13 PM

  8. […] hosts a large colony of shags. If you’re not familiar with the shag, as I wasn’t until I photographed one during our first New Zealand visit, it’s a kind of […]

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