Friday, September 6, 2013

Northern Gannet

I thought I blogged about the Northern Gannets that Erika and I saw during our January 2004 Florida trip. Perhaps because I was on a rocking ferry from Cape Hatteras to the mainland of Virginia and the resultant somewhat blurry photos, I didn’t get around to the post.

Gannets are, nevertheless, wonderful birds. They only breed in 32 colonies on cliffs in northern Europe to Quebec and Newfoundland. Only six of these colonies are in North America. Our gannets winter off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

They make spectacular dives for the fish and squid. They plunge from heights of up to 40 meters, achieving speeds over 100 km/hr, before hitting the water, penetrating up to 5 meters, and sometimes swimming 15 meters further down. Often gannets feed in flocks of hundreds. When I taught ornithology, I always wished to share this sight with my students, but I never found anything on the Internet. Lately I located this video of a single gannet diving.

Gannets suffer “fishing accidents,” being tangled in nets, and persecution by fishermen. Despite their limited breeding locations and high adult mortality rates, Northern Gannet populations are increasing at a rate of about three percent each year (Mobray 2002).

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