Imperial Shags (Phalacrocorax atriceps)

The Imperial Shag, Phalacrocorax atriceps, is a cormorant native to many islands of the Southern Hemisphere. It is sometimes separated in the genus Leucocarbo. It is also known as the Blue-eyed Shag and by many other names (11 just for the South American race), and is one of a larger group of cormorants called blue-eyed shags.[1]

Several subspecies were formerly split as species, but are lumped with Imperial by HANZAB.[2] They include

  • Phalacrocorax (atriceps) bransfieldensis, formerly Antarctic Shag
  • Phalacrocorax (atriceps) georgianus, formerly South Georgian Shag
  • Phalacrocorax (atriceps) nivalis, formerly Heard Shag
  • Phalacrocorax (atriceps) melanogenis, formerly Crozet Shag
  • Phalacrocorax (atriceps) purpurascens, formerly Macquarie Shag


The Imperial Shag is endowed with glossy black feathers covering most of its body, with a white belly and neck. It possesses a distinctive ring of blue skin around its eyes, a bright orange nasal crest and pinkish legs and feet.[1]


This species is found on the coasts of southern Chile and Argentina,[1] on the Antarctic Peninsula, and on many islands in the Southern Hemisphere, including the Falklands, South Georgia, Heard Island and Macquarie Island.


The diet of this species is predominantly fish. It can dive to a depth of almost 25m and South American populations eat mainly Argentine anchoita.

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