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Pitt Shag Phalacrocorax featherstoni
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This species is listed as Endangered because it has a very small population which has declined moderately rapidly over the last two generations (18 years), a decline which is predicted to continue given current threats.

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.

Stictocarbo featherstoni Turbott (1990)

63 cm. Medium-sized, slight grey-and-black cormorant. Breeding, black head, rump, tail, thighs. Dark grey upperparts with small black spots over wings, back. Grey underparts. Apple-green facial skin. Double crest on head. Non-breeding, no crest. Yellow facial skin. Paler underparts. Voice Displaying male noisy, female silent.

Distribution and population
Phalacrocorax featherstoni is found in the Chatham Islands, New Zealand, on Chatham, Pitt, Mangere, Little Mangere, South East (= Rangatira), Star Keys, the Pyramid, Big and Middle Sister, Murumurus, the Castle and Rabbit Islands (Marchant and Higgins 1990, Imber 1994, Taylor 2000). The population has been variously estimated at c.500 pairs, fewer than 1,000 pairs (Heather and Robertson 1997) and in 1997-1998, at 729 pairs, following a complete census over the entire breeding range (Bell and Bell 2000). However, new information suggests that the population has declined by 25% over six years from 1997 to 2003, with 547 pairs counted in the second complete census over the 2003-2004 breeding season (Bester and Charteris 2005). The species's foraging range is assumed to be up to 24 km offshore (cf. New Zealand King Shag P. carunculatus).

Population justification
A total of 547 pairs (=1,094 mature individuals; 1,400 estimated total individuals) were counted in the second complete census over the 2003-2004 breeding season.

Trend justification
The species's population has declined by 25% over six years from 1997 to 2003 (A. Bester per R. Hitchmough in litt. 2005).

It nests in small colonies of between five and 20 pairs, on rocky shores and islets, headlands and cliffs. Breeding distribution is limited by suitable nesting sites (Marchant and Higgins 1990). It feeds primarily on small fish, supplemented by marine invertebrates (Heather and Robertson 1997).

The effects of introduced species on Chatham and Pitt Islands are not known, with birds tending to nest in inaccessible sites. Some nests, however, could be affected by stock, feral cats, pigs, dogs, black rats Rattus rattus, brown rats R. norvegicus and Weka Gallirallus australis (Taylor 2000). Birds are sometimes illegally shot by fishermen (Heather and Robertson 1997, Taylor 2000). A total of 40-80 birds may be caught in crayfish pots annually (Bell and Bell 2000). Recent declines may be a response to changes in the marine environment that are affecting food supplies (Bester and Charteris 2005). The species is potentially threatened by climate change because it has a geographically bounded distribution: it is restricted to an island or islands with a maximum altitude of 283 m (Birdlife International unpublished data).

Conservation Actions Underway
In 1961, sheep and cattle were removed from South East Island and, in 1968, sheep were taken off Mangere Island (Taylor 2000). Conservation Actions Proposed
Census the entire adult population once a suitable methodology has been developed, and at 10-year intervals thereafter, and monitor two accessible colonies annually to determine trends (Taylor 2000). Assess the impact of rock lobster fishing practices (B. Weeber in litt. 2000). Remove feral cats and G. australis from Pitt Island if agreement is reached with residents, and remove sheep, cattle and pigs from parts of Pitt and Chatham Islands that are suitable for colonies. Fence colonies (with owners' permission) if stock are found to be impacting on colonies (Taylor 2000).

Bell, M.; Bell, D. 2000. Census of the three shag species in the Chatham Islands. Notornis 47: 148-153.

Bester, A.J.; Charteris, M. 2005. The second census of Chatham Island shag and Pitt Island shag - are numbers declining? Notornis 52: 6-10.

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

Imber, M. 1994. Seabirds recorded at the Chatham Islands, 1960 to May 1993. Notornis 41(Supplement): 97-108.

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

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

Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.

Click here for more information about the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

New Zealand Govt - Dept of Conservation - Recovery Plan

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

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

Bell, B., Bell, B., Bester, A., Hitchmough, R., Weeber, B.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Phalacrocorax featherstoni. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016.

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 - Pitt Island shag (Phalacrocorax featherstoni) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants)
Species name author Buller, 1873
Population size 1094 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 22 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species