Dave Jones photo Wilson's Storm-petrel 

New England Seabirds

Other Sea Animals
Where To Find
Pelagic Trips
Breeding Colonies

Mail Box
Wandering Birder

Sea Conditions

.Seabirds | Northern Gannet  Comments | Site Map

Northern Gannet

Mora bassana

Jim Besada photo of adult Northern Gannet

Other Names
.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 Gannet.

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 Seabird Colonies..

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 world.

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 parent's gullet.

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.

Pair Bonding
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 tail.

During the next 3 years, the plumage becomes whiter.  Juveniles can be seen on pelagic trips all summer.

The birds do not reach full breeding plumage until 5 years of age.

At Sea
After disbursal usually found over the continental shelf from New England to the Caribbean. Less often over deeper water.

Plunge Diving

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 colony.

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 photographer.http://www.nh.ultranet.com/~mirick/
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.


Seabirds Last update



.Page Author: Emmalee Tarry