"Birds in their little nests agree"
Rosemary Cole
/ Categories: In the Valley

"Birds in their little nests agree"

or do they in the shag breeding colonies?

Pied shag nestlings get impatient waiting to be fed so attempt to feed each other (Photo by Judi Miller)This auld proverb means those living together should try to get on, but this ain't necessarily so in the kāruhiruhi/pied shag colonies at ZEALANDIA. Shags are shameless in swiping sticks and other materials from nearby nests! I've even observed a shag stealing from another shag's nest while she was still sitting on her eggs!! There's no shushing of fractious, hungry baby shags. There's also no consideration of nearby neighbours being disturbed by a loudly keening baby shag or two. Baby shags bellow for food darting their heads up and down for parental attention, but sometimes they just get ignored by their worn out parents.

The nesting behaviour of baby shags shows no agreement about sharing or taking turns. They want their parents to disgorge food into their beaks ASAP. There's also no noise control or noise volume to turn down on these baby shags, as they just constantly yell for food  and then shout for second helpings. No wonder the parent shags only build (plus pilfer) materials for a big enough nest for a nuclear family. It's no surprise they produce one or maybe two eggs and need Time Out ignoring ever hungry, bawling babies. You can view the shags close-up for yourself - the colony nearest the pontoon at ZEALANDIA gives the clearest view of breeding and nesting behaviour.

Story by Rosemary Cole
Photos by Judi Miller

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