Yellow-footed shags belong to the Stictocarbo genus, which is found only in New Zealand. The birds are remarkable for their spotted plumage and brightly coloured facial patches when breeding.
Spotted shags (Stictocarbo punctatus) are best known for their striking breeding plumage, double crest and bright green facial skin. The pale grey front and light brown back and wings differ from the more common black-and-white shag colours. The Māori name is parekareka, and in Canterbury they are locally known as ‘flip-flaps’, from their laboured take-off from the water.
There are about 30,000 breeding pairs, and they nest in colonies of up to 700 pairs on rocky islets or coastal cliffs. They feed further offshore than many other shags, preferring rocky zones. They are found in two areas of the North Island (near Auckland and in Wellington Harbour), and around much of the South Island. A south-western South Island and Stewart Island subspecies is known as the blue shag (Stictocarbo punctatus oliveri).
They lay one to four pale blue eggs, and laying times vary throughout the country. The young leave the nest at around two months. To feed they travel up to 15 kilometres from the shore and take small fish and marine invertebrates. The oldest recorded age is 10 years.
Pitt Island shags
This shag (Stictocarbo featherstoni) is found only around the Chatham Islands. The population of around 430 breeding pairs is scattered in small colonies of up to 20 pairs, usually away from the pink-footed Chatham Island shags. They lay one to four pale blue eggs from August to December. They feed alone, mainly on small fish and marine invertebrates.