Spotted shags/parekareka
PHOTO: 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

Help protect New Zealand's native birds

  • Volunteer with DOC or other groups to control predators and restore bird habitats.
  • Don’t throw rubbish into water ways or storm drains.
  • Set traps for stoats or rats on your property. Get more information from your local DOC office.
  • Put a bell on your cat's collar, feed it well, and keep it indoors at night.
  • Plant a range of native plants that provide food year-round to encourage birds into your garden.
When visiting parks and beaches
  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep your dog under control.
  • Prevent the spread of pests. Check your gear for mice and rats when visiting pest-free islands.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. Stay out of fenced-off areas. Leave nesting shore birds alone.
  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness, and help save forest birds like kiwi and weka.
  • Follow the water care code. Keep water craft speed to 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore.
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