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Northern Gannet

The Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus, formerly Sula bassana) is a seabird and is the largest member of the gannet family, Sulidae.

 

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

 

Adults are 81-110 cm (32-43 in) long, weigh 2.2-3.6 kg (4.8-7.9 lbs) and have a 165-180 cm (65-71 in) wingspan. Before fledging, the immature birds (at about 10 weeks of age) can weigh more than 4 kg (8.8 lbs). Their plumage is white with black wing tips. The bill is light bluish. The eye is light blue, and it is surrounded by bare, black skin. During breeding, the head and neck are brushed in a delicate yellow.

 

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.

 

They are migratory and most winter at sea, heading further south in the Atlantic.

 

These birds are spectacular divers, plunging into the ocean at high speed. Although they are powerful and agile fliers, they are clumsy in takeoffs and landings. They mainly eat small fish (2.5-30.5 cm in length) which gather in groups near the surface. Virtually any small fish (roughly 80-90% of the diet) or other small pelagic species (largely squid) will be taken opportunistically. Various cod, smelt and herring species are most frequently taken.[4]

 

Although Northern Gannet populations are now stable, their numbers were once greatly reduced due to loss of habitat, removal of eggs and killing of adults.

 

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.[5]

 

Old names for the Northern Gannet include solan, solan goose and solant bird.

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Taken on September 25, 2009