What's the difference between
a cormorant and a shag?

What's the difference between shags and cormorants?

  • Shags and cormorants appear very similar but are different species.

  • Both are diving birds but shags tend to be seen only on the coast whereas cormorants are also commonly seen inland or on fresh water.

  • Shags are generally more slender and smaller than cormorants.

  • Cormorants have a smooth profile while shags have a stepped forehead which, at breeding times, can have a tuft of feathers on it.

  • The cormorant's green eye is surrounded by bare skin while the shag's eye has feathers around it.

  • In breeding plumage, the cormorant will have white patches on its body and face.