A good shag

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Need to contact Admin...
Nov 29, 2003
Sorry about the title - actually, this is about another bird of the genus Phalacrocorax, namely, the Cormorant.

Cormorants and geese are similar in size, and both fly in V-formations. So how do you tell them apart at long distance?

You can easily distinguish them at close range, but I was astonished when a friend (well, he is a nature reserve ranger) identified them as cormorants from hundreds of yards distance. For all I knew, they could have been pinkfoot geese.

Apparently cormorants sometimes stop flapping and glide, but geese never do (except when actually landing).

It's little things like this that make me realise how much I have to learn about the world around me.


Full Member
Nov 17, 2003
Michigan, USA
Well, if you are close enough, you can often see the kink in their neck plus they show darker plummage (btw, which species?).

Cormorants will sometimes glide while geese won't and their formations are typically not as nicely V-shaped as geese.


Nov 23, 2003
Shags are what you see when you are on your own or with people you know well. Cormorants are what you see when you are with your children or parents.



Sep 24, 2003
nth lincs
Doc what you need is "Jizz".
No I'm not pulling your leg its the term used for identification of birds by their general character. There's a book, Birds by Character written by Bob Hume. ISBN 0-333-49053-3.
It doesn't rely on plumage for I.D but gives details on how the bird moves, size, shape and behaviour.


Interesting - re: bird i.d. not as easy as it seems. Shags/cormorants - lot of differences. Your friend is correct - Cormorants do have slower wing beats and glide. Also they have shallower wing beats, longer tails (14 tail feathers) fly in silent flocks (geese communicate by noisy 'barks') and cormorants when flocking are less organised. The also roost in trees or on rocks.

Appologies if this is very anoraky however as a professional bird guide and eco educationalist I thought it may be interesting. :-D


Cross breeding in Geese is very rare but it can happen. The main ones that have been successful are the Domesticated/farm Geese and Greylags. In fact Greylags were the first domesticated geese linked back to Greek times. There is alot of discussion and subspecies argument within the ornithological world regarding cross breeding. Some species are 'split'because of this - i.e. there are 5-6 subspecies of Canada Goose althoughmany argue against this.
Bear in mind that most species tend to stick together to keep the gene line.
Duck are worse for this - 14 recognised hybrids! - at present there is an international 'crisis'
regarding the Ruddy and White Headed duck.
Good luck with your i.d work. Let me know if you have any other questions. I often have this come up with clients. :-D All the best J