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Name the Bird!

I am not a bird watcher, however I am interested in watching birds; as a mater of fact, I am interested in all things nature, not only watching birds but also watching the nature change day in day out. However, bird watching is not really a thing for a city girl from Indonesia, which means my interest is not polished yet; I still ask too many questions instead of understanding the ins and outs of bird watching.

the waterfowls by the river Avon in Bristol

Now, that I live by the floating harbour in Bristol, with a beautiful view out of my window, I can see the nature change more closely especially when the season changes, from summer to autumn or from grey winter to lively spring; I also aware that there are migration birds who visits the British Island in winter…

The biggest advantage for me of living by the water is like dreaming and watch life goes by… (as if I have nothing to do…), well, not literally…. as the better term is observing the life around me. And one of my observation is about the wildlife around me. I haven’t seen the elusive Bristol’s urban fox yet, but currently there are a lot of ducks by the reed bed near me, which population growing by the year. not to mention the seagulls that wakes us up at 4 am in the morning in Summer. But as Bird Watcher (or they say Twitcher) wannabe, the game is spotting and naming the bird that we encounter. I know the difference between a pigeons and a ducks, but types of ducks? that a bit tricky. and that goes with all different waterfowls that live within the floating harbour only.

Swimming with the body halfway into the water, unlike ducks

Cormorant or Shag

A few weeks ago, my neighbour and I had a discussion about the type of the bird living around our water.  I always assume this is “Cormorant”.  For those who is not familiar with this type of birds, it looks like duck, but its not; it swims low in the water – much of the body is submerged, and periodically peering under the surface to locate its food, and unlike ducks (the one living in the Floating Harbour) who dabbling and quacking, This particular type are not, they eat fish, so they dive to fish. They are not categorise in the family of Waterfowls, they are part of the family of Pelicans and relatives.

Definitely not a duck!

However, there is this other type of bird called ’Shag” which is still in the same family of Cormorant, but a bit different… So, what is the different? 

This is according to Collins Bird Guide book: 

SHAG: is smaller and slimmer than Cormorant, (75cm/30″) with relatively small head and thin bill. Breeding adult entirely black with green gloss; curly crest on its forehead; yellow base of lower mandible and orange/yellow gape. When not breeding, lacks crest and has some white on chin, resembling to Cormorant. 

Habitat of Marine area, confined to rocky coast and island; very rare inland or on flat sandy or muddy coast. It will fish in rough seas but stays close inshore and prefers sheltered bays

CORMORANT: is a larger bird than Shag (90cm/36″); more heavily built with stouter bill. Breeding adults are glossy black and bronze, with yellow bill and throat pouch, patch of bare orange skin below eye, and white cheeks, throat and thigh patch.Feathers on back of head and neck show varying amounts of white. After breeding season, loses white thigh patch and white head feathers.

Habitat of coastal waters, estuaries inland lakes marshes with open water. It normally fishes close to land, diving from the surface and catching fish by swimming under water. When not feeding , it often sits on exposed perches, preening and spreading its wings to dry.  

With no side by side comparison between those birds, anybody has Idea what type of bird is this? Cormorant or Shag????


Info of Cormorant Profile, as per Nature Guide Bird of The Wold by David Burnie. 2022 edition:


  1. Oh very interesting! They look so much alike! We have a lot of them too here in Copenhagen and it’s funny to see them drying their wings on the beach. They also destroy the trees where they perch on because their poop is so acidic 🙂


  2. I love watching birds in their natural habitat, but every time an opportunity to do this suddenly arises, there are usually two things I have in mind: I wish I had a proper telephoto lens, and I wish I knew the names of all those birds! Speaking of cormorants, the first time I saw them was in southern China where the locals use them to fish.


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