Gannet (Northern Gannet)
Distribution Britain 18 (+28.6%) Ireland 5 (+66.7%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 201,000 Ireland 30,000 nests
European status: 230,000 (79% in Britain and Ireland =1)
British population trend: on the up and up, recently by 2.4% p.a.
How likely are you to record it? 10 squares (0.2%) Ranked 150 [88=]
The Gannet is the biggest, and most conspicuous, seabird native to the North Atlantic. Britain and Ireland hold about 80% of the European population. In 1900 there were nine colonies: one on Lundy, in the Bristol Channel, was about to become extinct but the rest are still extant. The total was 40,000 to 50,000 pairs. Now there were more than 230,000 pairs counted in 1994-95 in the following colonies:
Colony County Count Year established Bempton Yorkshire 1,631 ca 1930 Bass Rock Firth of Forth 34,397 (1447) Troup Head Grampian 530 1988 Fair Isle Shetland 975 1974 or 75 Noss Shetland 7,310 1914 Hermaness Shetland 11,993 1917 Foula Shetland 600 1976 Sule Stack Orkney 4,888 (1710) Sula Sgeir Western Isles 10,440 (1549) Flannan Isles Western Isles 4,438 (1969) St Kilda Western Isles 60,428 (9th century) Ailsa Craig Firth of Clyde 32,456 (1526) Scar Rocks Wigtown 1,952 1939* Clare Island Mayo 3(1999) 1975 or 1976 Little Skellig Kerry 26,850 (1700) Bull Rock Cork 1,815 1856 Great Saltee Wexford 1,250 1929 Ireland's Eye Dublin ca. 150 (1999) 1989 Grassholm Pembroke 29,277+ 1820 or later Ortac Alderney 2.098 1940 Les Etacs Alderney 3,380 (1945)
*first colonisation ca 1883 abortive
The population is still increasing at a rate of about 2.4% a year and so, by 1999, there are likely to have been about 260,000. The colony at Sula Sgeir is still harvested for young birds to eat by 'The Men of Ness' and it is not increasing. New colonies are likely to be established and these can take off very quickly to reach several hundred nests in a dozen years or so. Clearly these new colonies are occupied by birds bred elsewhere survival and productivity are high and Gannets exploit fishing discards. One unpleasant threat comes from modern, indestructible, fish nets which entangle birds at sea and may also be incorporated into nests. Excellent prospects will they come back to nest on Lundy?
Murray, S. & Wanless, S. 1996 Scottish Birds: 18, 152-158.
Murray, S. & Wanless, S. 1997 Scottish Birds: 19, 10-27.
Wanless, S., Matthews, J. & Bourne, W.R.P. 1996 Scottish Birds: 18, 214-221.
The following Bird On! sketch is available:
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead