Russell's "Bird Lady" is appealing to fishermen to be careful with hooks and lines after rescuing a bloodied shag so tangled in nylon it could barely move.

The bird was found on Donkey Bay, near Long Beach, earlier this month by a Kerikeri woman visiting her brother in Russell.

The distraught woman phoned Gilly Jackson, who is regularly called on to rescue entangled birds, and managed to catch it in a towel while her brother gathered the necessary tools, including pliers, scissors and bolt cutters.

The trio spent 40 minutes painstakingly removing hooks from its beak and chest, as well as swivels, sinkers and fishing line wrapped around its neck, feet and wings.


Once they had cut off the barb and pulled the hook from its beak the shag "went into quiet mode" and made no attempt to escape.

Despite the blood down its chest, Mrs Jackson believed the injuries were superficial, so it was better to return it to the bay than take it home and risk it becoming overly used to humans.

The liberated shag waddled to the water to wash itself. It is thought to have since flown away.

Mrs Jackson said the shag was "in dire straits" and would not have survived much longer if the woman hadn't noticed its distress.

Sometimes shags and gulls became entangled when chasing live baits, with the exasperated fishermen cutting the line. In other cases fishing line was carelessly thrown away.

"This happens too often. We need to be more caring for our wildlife," she said.

Mrs Jackson said shags usually got hooked when a fisher was using live bait. If a shag was hanging around she recommended throwing a decoy bait far from the boat in the other direction before putting the line in.

The way to catch a tangled shag is to throw a towel over it. Then, one rescuer could hold its beak shut and watch out for its powerful feet, while the other cut and unravelled the line. If it had a hook through its beak the barb should be snipped off with bolt cutters before the rest was pulled out.