Friday, February 10, 2012

Imperial Shag

Phalacrocorax atriceps
The Imperial Shag goes by many names, including the Blue Eyed Shag and the Blue Eyed Cormorant. They live in the southern reaches of the planet, hunting and breeding as far away as Antarctica.

As with all Cormorants, the Imperial Shag dives for its food. They have very little body fat and heavy bones. This allows them to be less buoyant and to swim underwater easier. The Shags posses a large volume of blood, and that extra oxygen lets them stay underwater for up to 4 minutes. They also have powerful webbed feet that propel them, and hooked beaks that enable them to catch and hold on to slippery fish.

Outside of the breeding season Imperial Shags may live either alone or in flocks. But when the time comes to reproduce they always end up in massive colonies that often consist of other bird species as well. Pairs are monogamous, and 2-4 eggs are laid each season. Both parents incubate and  care for the offspring until they fledge after 2-3 months.

Because most Imperial Shags live in areas that tend to be human-free, they aren't threatened overall. However, some small island populations are vulnerable to natural events that could affect their breeding and hunting range.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Southern Oceans
Size : Length up to 31in (78cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Pelecaniformes
Family : Phalacrocoracidae -- Genus-: Phalacrocorax -- Species : P. atriceps

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