There are three species of closely related gannet. This is the one from the North Atlantic (both sides) getting down to the tropics in the winter (and as immature birds) but adults are at sea in the breeding area all year. The other two species are found in South Africa and Australia and the six species of tropical booby are close family too.
These are big birds and very impressive. Adults are white with black wing tips and a yellow nape. At the colonies they breed in serried ranks at full bill stretch. At sea they are the most impressive of plunge divers arrowing their way into the sea and taking fish up to 300 mm long. Immatures are grey speckled birds. Flight at sea varies depending on the wind and wave action but very accomplished whatever they are doing.
They raise a single chick and the colonies are massive and increasing after crashing a century ago. Colonies are on Canadian, Icelandic, British, Irish, French, Faeroes and Norwegian coasts. British and Irish population approaches 200,000 pairs - 70% of the world population. St. Kilda (over 50,000) and four over 20,000 (Ailsa Craig, Bass Rock, Grassholm and Little Skellig) are the biggest in Britain and Ireland - and thus the World.
The biggest seabird of the North Atlantic - familiar off all shores.
Length 950 mm Closed wing 490 mm Weight 3000 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead