Northern Gannet

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Common Name: Northern Gannet
Scientific Name: Morus bassanus

Size: 31.9-43.3 inches (81-110 cm); 175-179 cm wingspan

Habitat: North Atlantic; Northern Gannet breeds in only six well established colonies: three in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, and three in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland. In the eastern North Atlantic, it is distributed in 32 colonies from the coast of Brittany in France northward to Norway. Gannets winter and forage at sea.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 950,000 - 1,200,000 mature individuals. The population trend is increasing.

Diet: Fish and squid. While most seabirds’ plunge-dives are relatively shallow, the Northern Gannet can dive as deep as 22 meters (72 feet). It thrusts its wings straight out over back, touching in the middle, just before breaking the water surface. It uses its wings and feet to swim deeper in pursuit of fish. If a fish is taken after diving, gannets swallow the fish underwater before surfacing.

Breeding: Sexes are alike. Young birds are dark brown in their first year, and gradually acquire more white in subsequent seasons until they reach maturity after five years.

They normally nest in large colonies, on cliffs overlooking the ocean or on small rocky islands. The largest colony of this bird, with over 60,000 couples, is found on Bonaventure Island, Quebec. Gannet pairs may remain together over several seasons. They perform elaborate greeting rituals at the nest, stretching their bills and necks skywards and gently tapping bills together. Predators of eggs and nestlings include Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls, Common Ravens, ermine, and red fox. The only known natural predator of adults is the Bald Eagle, though large sharks and seals may rarely snatch a gannet out at sea.

Cool Facts: Old names for the Northern Gannet include Solan, Solan Goose, and Solant Bird. Although they are strong and agile fliers, they are clumsy in takeoffs and landings.

Found in Songbird ReMix Seabirds Volume 2

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