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Rough-faced Shag Phalacrocorax carunculatus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is classified as Vulnerable because it has a very small population and is restricted to four very small islands, rendering it susceptible to stochastic effects and human impacts. If human disturbance or set-netting were shown to cause a population decline or fluctuations in numbers or locations, it would require uplisting to Endangered.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

Leucocarbo carunculatus Turbott (1990)

76 cm. Large, black-and-white cormorant. Black head, hind neck, lower back, rump, uppertail-coverts, all with metallic blue sheen. White underparts. Pink feet. White patches on wings appear as bar when folded. Yellow-orange caruncles above base of bill. Similar spp. Pied cormorant P. varius has white face, neck, black feet, no white patches on wings. Voice Makes little noise at colonies, silent elsewhere.

Distribution and population
Phalacrocorax carunculatus is endemic to New Zealand, where 92% of the population breeds on White Rocks, Sentinel Rock, Duffers Reef and Trio Islands, in the Marlborough Sounds, with two smaller colonies off D'Urville Island (Schuckard 1998, 2006). Birds formerly bred at D'Urville Peninsula and Te Kuru Kuru Island (Taylor 2000). Surveys between 1992 and 2002 indicate a population of c.645 birds, including 102-126 breeding pairs (Schuckard 1998, 2006). Numbers are believed to have remained stable over the last 50 years (historical counts are lower, probably because they were conducted at different times of day) (Schuckard 1994, 1998). The maximum feeding distance from the Duffers Reef colony is 24 km (Schuckard 1994).

Population justification
The population between 1992 and 2002 has been estimated at c.645 birds, including 102-126 breeding pairs, hence a population of 250-999 mature individuals is assigned here. This equates to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.

Trend justification
Numbers are believed to have remained stable over the last 50 years (Schuckard 1994, 1998, 2002).

It breeds on small islets and rock stacks, with nests spaced c.1 m apart (Marchant and Higgins 1990). The main dietary item of at least part of the population - witch Arnoglossus scapha, a left-eyed flatfish - is not a species targeted by commercial and recreational fishers (Lalas and Brown 1998).

In the 1800s, collecting by ornithologists and hunting for the fashion trade may have affected numbers (Heather and Robertson 1997). Human disturbance (boats, aircraft and scuba divers) can cause desertion of nests and subsequent predation by gulls Larus spp. (Nelson 1971, Schuckard 1994). New interest from tour operators in the region may increase the problem. Set-nets are sometimes placed very close to colonies (Schuckard 1994) and present a major risk. Birds are occasionally illegally shot (Taylor 2000).

Conservation Actions Underway
All permanent colonies are wildlife sanctuaries, and are sign-posted. Charter boats have to remain 50-100 m from colonies, but it is thought that this may not be sufficient to avoid considerable disturbance (Schuckard 1994). Black rats Rattus rattus briefly colonised Duffers Reef but were eradicated by 1983 (Taylor 2000). In early 2012, a species conservation strategy, including a conservation management plan, was in the process of being produced for this species (R. Schuckard in litt. 2012).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Census all breeding colonies every five years using an established methodology (Taylor 2000). Obtain information on the extent of disturbance from vessels (P. Gaze in litt. 1999). Develop techniques for establishing colonies at new sites. Establish a code of conduct for commercial charter boat operators and fishers to minimise the disturbance of colonies. Obtain protection for all breeding grounds (Taylor 2000). Prevent marine farming close to colonies and feeding areas (B. Weeber in litt. 2000). Start an advocacy programme to encourage fishers to adopt set-net practices which minimise bycatch (Taylor 2000).

Heather, B. D.; Robertson, H. A. 1997. The field guide to the birds of New Zealand. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Lalas, C.; Brown, D. 1998. The diet of New Zealand King Shags Leucocarbo carunculatus in Pelorus Sound. Notornis 45: 129-140.

Marchant, S.; Higgins, P. J. 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds, 1: ratites to ducks. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Nelson, A. 1971. King Shags in the Marlborough Sounds. Notornis 18: 30-37.

Schuckard, R. 1994. New Zealand King Shag (Leucocarbo carunculatus) on Duffers Reef, Marlborough Sounds. Notornis 41(2): 93-108.

Schuckard, R. 1998. Status of New Zealand King Shag.

Schuckard, R. 2006. Population status of the New Zealand King Shag (Leucocarbo carunculatus. Notornis 53(3): 297-307.

Taylor, G. A. 2000. Action plan for seabird conservation in New Zealand. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., Pilgrim, J. & Taylor, J.

Gaze, P., Schuckard, R. & Weeber, B.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Phalacrocorax carunculatus. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - King shag (Leucocarbo carunculatus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants)
Species name author (Gmelin, 1789)
Population size 250-999 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species