New England Seabirds
Jim Besada photo of adult Northern Gannet
.North Atlantic Gannet or often just
Gannet. The Northern Gannet is in the Family Sulidae which contains
the Boobies and Gannets. The Northern Gannet is the only member
of this family in New England waters and is considered by the
author to be a specialty bird of New England. There are
two other species of Gannets:: Cape Gannet, and Australasian
When and Where To See
Immature birds can be seen on
Stellwagen Bank all summer long. Mature birds are seen in early spring in
migration and in great numbers in late fall and into winter. Sometimes seen in
fall and winter from land where they are usually spotted making spectacular
plunge dives. For a more exciting Gannet experience visit a breeding colony to
observe mating behavior. See Bonaventure Island or Cape St. Mary under
Breeds in large colonies in the Gulf of
St. Lawrence including a large colony on Bonaventure Island on the Gaspé
Peninsula. Also breeds in Newfoundland, Labrador, Iceland, British Isles. St.
Kilda in the British Isles with 50,000 pairs is the largest colony in the
Nests are built of mud and sticks on the ground with cliff side
locations preferred. Both parents incubate the egg using their feet as they do
not have a brood pouch like Penguins. Both parents feed the chick regurgitated
fish with the chick pecking on the parent's bill and sticking its head down the
Birds do not breed until they are fully mature at 5
years of age. Immature birds present on the breeding ground where they may
build practice nests and engage in mating behaviors usually on the outskirts of
the colony. The immature birds disburse before the end of the breeding season
and are seen on pelagics throughout the summer.
On the breeding grounds Gannets
display interesting mating behaviors. Here a pair greet one another. Pair
bonding endures from season to season.
Juvenile (first year) birds are gray brown with white spots
on upper wings and back as shown in the lower left of the
painting at the left. Notice the white u shape path in the
During the next 3 years, the plumage becomes
whiter. Juveniles can be seen on pelagic trips all
The birds do not reach full breeding plumage until 5
years of age.
After disbursal usually found over the
continental shelf from New England to the Caribbean. Less often over deeper
At sea the most noticeable behavior is the spectacular plunge
diving. Bird hovers momentarily and then plunges directly toward the water
folding its wings just before plunging in head first. They can go as deep as 30
feet on a dive. When one bird discovers a school of fish, others are attracted
and they put on a spectacular show.
Rests on the water in rafts or singly. Unlike other members of the bobby
family, Northern Gannets never rest on land away from the breeding
||Gannets are large birds. Flight is steady wing flapping
alternating with glides.
Photo of adult taking off by
Steve Mirick and used with his permission. Photo remains the property of the
|Immature Northern Gannet photographed on the beach by Steve
Mirick and used with his permission. Bird was caught in fishing line and taken
to rehabilitation by the photographer. Photo remains the
property of the photographer.
Resting on the beach is most unusual behavior for a Gannet
as they usually rest on a cliff for easy takeoff.
.Page Author: Emmalee Tarry