Friday, November 28, 2014


Not enough oil in their feathers to make them waterproof and so they spread their wings to air dry themselves. (Gloria Salavarria)

Shags in their Bela Lugosi pose—drying out their feathers. In the U.S. these birds are called Coromorants. (Gloria Salavarria)
Catching blame

Posted on March 3, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

Cormorants—also known as Shags in New Zealand—are great at catching things such as fish, sunlight and blame—and like my Qantas flight out of Los Angeles, they’re not so great on take-offs.

Shags are without question fantastic at catching fish and they consume a lot of fish in one day and spend the rest of their day preening and sunning themselves on rocks near the shore. They also do a lot of thinking and shitting—turning their favorite perches white with their guano—while they contemplate their next move.

Some claim that these birds eat seven pounds of fish each day—which is a lot when you consider the size of this bird and its need to fly—although this might explain why they’re so terrible on their take-offs. They struggle mightily to gain flight, much less altitude and spend a long run walking on water in an almost vain effort to get themselves airborne.

For all the omega-3 oil they allegedly consume, you’d also think they’d generate enough oil for their feathers to be more water resilient than they are and thus avoid having to hang their feathers “out to dry” but there they stand like B-movie Draculas with their wings outstretched.

It’s not easy being a shag.

So far I’ve heard from my Kiwi friends that the death of penguins and gannets along the shores of New Zealand has more to do with the overfishing of shags along the coastal waters and less to do with overfishing by man. Others claim that the penguins are dying of disease—and the same goes for the gannets.

For their part, the shags turn their backs to man and squirt shit in our direction—white-washing the rocks on which they stand.