Spotted shags/parekareka
Image: Shellie Evans ©

Introduction

The spotted shag/parekareka is a medium-sized, grey-blue marine shag with a long, slender bill and yellow-orange feet. Adult breeding birds have small black spots on their back and wings.

Spotted shags/parekareka (Stictocarbo punctatus) are mainly found around the South Island in coastal waters out to 16 km, entering inlets and estuaries to feed and roost. The Marlborough Sounds is a stronghold for the species.

Their status is 'Endemic, Not Threatened'.

Appearance

The spotted shag is a medium-sized, grey-blue marine shag with a long, slender bill and yellow-orange feet. Adult breeding birds have small black spots on their back and wings.

A distinctive curved broad white stripe runs from above the eye down both sides of the neck. They have a black crest on the front and back of the head.

Bare facial skin between the eye and bill turns green-blue before the breeding season. They make loud grunts at resting, roosting and nesting areas, but are otherwise silent.

Spotted shag/parekareka. Photo © Shellie Evans.
Adult breeding birds have small black spots on their back and wings

Diet

Their diet consists of small fish and marine invertebrates, including squid and plankton. They feed in deep water up to 16 km offshore. Spotted shags breed in colonies of a few pairs to 700 pairs. Timing varies year to year, depending on food availability.

Nesting and breeding

Spotted shags are monogamous; 3–4 pale blue eggs are laid in a large nest platform made of sticks and vegetation, built on coastal cliff ledges and stacks. Incubation and chick-rearing are shared. Young leave the nest at 62 days.

You can help

Emergency hotline

Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) immediately if you see anyone catching, harming or killing native wildlife. 

Help protect our native birds

When visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes
  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep them under control.
  • Check for pests when visiting pest-free islands.
  • Leave nesting birds alone.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. 
  • Avoid leaving old fishing lines on beaches or in the sea.
  • Follow the water care code and local navigation bylaws.
  • Don't drive on riverbeds, or keep to formed tracks if you have to.
Other ways to help
  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness.
  • Volunteer to control predators and restore bird habitats.
  • Set predator traps on our property.
  • Put a bell on your cat's collar, feed it well, and keep it indoors at dusk/dawn and at night.
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