'Robber' shags caught on camera


Shags on the Farne Islands have been filmed stealing nesting material from their neighbours by a film crew in the UK.

In this clip, shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) can be seen taking washed-up sticks and dried seaweed from the nests of other shags.

Commenting on this sequence, producer Bridget Appleby said: "There must be an evolutionary advantage to finding the easiest way to get nesting material, but It's hard not to anthropomorphise. They come over as comical, mischievous characters with no scruples!"

Although entertaining to watch this behaviour is not uncommon amongst shags.

"Any exposed or unguarded nesting material is at risk of being stolen by a neighbour. Finding nesting material takes up time and energy so stealing from a neighbour who has done all the work saves them having to do it," explained Richard James from the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).

"Shags normally nest in loose colonies and defend a territory in the immediate vicinity around their nest to keep these thieves away," he said.

The sequence was filmed for the BBC One series The Great British Year, which continues on Wednesday 9 October 2013 at 2100.

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