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4

Northern Gannet

(Morus bassanus)
Alternate name(s): "North Atlantic Gannet"
German name(s): "Basstölpel"

Size: 85-97 cm; wing span: 1.7-1.9 m
Weight: 2.3-3.6 kg

Similar
species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Northern Gannet at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

ADULT

BREEDING

Sex unknown

Lateral view from above onto the upperparts of a Northern Gannet in breeding plumage in flight; note the yellow-buff helmet (photo courtesy of J. Pires)
[Cabo Raso, Cascais, near Lisbon, Portugal, February 2019]

Lateral/ventral view of a Northern Gannet in breeding plumage in flight (photo courtesy of J. Pires)
[Cabo Raso, Cascais, near Lisbon, Portugal, February 2019]

Lateral view of three Northern Gannets in breeding plumage in flight (photo courtesy of J. Pires)
[Port of Sesimbra, Setubal, Portugal, May 2019]

Near-dorsal view of a mob of Northern Gannets in breeding plumage in flight (photo courtesy of J. Pires)
[Port of Sesimbra, Setubal, Portugal, May 2019]

NON-BREEDING

Sex unknown

Frontal view of a Northern Gannet in non-breeding plumage in flight; note the pale-yellow helmet (photo courtesy of J. Pires)
[Sagres, Algarve, Portugal, October 2018]

Group of 4 Northern Gannets; the full image also shows a distant lateral view of two Great Skuas in flight
(photo courtesy of J. Pires)
[Port of Sesimbra, Setubal, Portugal, March 2019]

Distant comparison of a Northern Gannet in flight with Great Skuas (photo courtesy of J. Pires)
[Port of Sesimbra, Setubal, Portugal, March 2019]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Near-lateral view of a third-year immature Northern Gannet; note the remaining black feathers on the inner upperwing
(photo courtesy of J. Pires)
[Sagres, Algarve, Portugal, October 2018]

Near-lateral/ventral view of a second calendar year Northern Gannet in flight (photo courtesy of J. Pires)
[Off Sagres, Algarve, Portugal, October 2019]

Lateral view of a juvenile Northern Gannet in flight (photo courtesy of J. Pires)
[Sagres, Algarve, Portugal, October 2018]

Dorsal view of a juvenile Northern Gannet in flight (photo courtesy of J. Pires)
[Off Sagres, Algarve, Portugal, October 2019]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Mar - Sep Eggs: 1 Incubation period: 42 - 46 days Fledging age: 84 - 97 days

Northern Gannets are monogamous and pair for many years if not for life. Once settled in a breeding colony, they will not move to another. The oldest breeding birds are the first to return to the colony. Incubation and fledging times for Northern Gannets, and thereby the total duration of their breeding season, are very long because, although quite large, their eggs are in fact small for birds their size, which means that chicks need time for their development. When nesting on narrow ledges, Northern Gannets will usually face the cliff walls while on the nest. Conditions can be so constrained that near-fledging age birds do not flap their wings to prepare for flight. When their time comes, they perform a leap of faith and either fly or die in the process of trying. Their limited flight skills do not allow them to return to the nest ledge.

Nest building: Male & female Incubation: Female & male Dependent care: Female & male

Primarily male Northern Gannets collect nest material.

Nest

Type: Basket Material: Seaweed, plants, earth Height above ground: N/A

Northern Gannets nest on the ground, but nests can be up to ca. 100 m high above the surrounding sea.

Overview of the world's largest Northern Gannet breeding colony, with an estimated 75,000 nests at the time this photo was taken (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Bass Rock, Firth of Forth, Scotland, UK, September 2017]

Northern Gannet breeding colony on a sheer cliff (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire, England, UK, September 2014]

Adult Northern Gannets in non-breeding plumage and their near-fledging age nestling at their nest; the fact that the young bird is looking over its shoulder may indicate that it is preparing to leave the nest soon (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire, England, UK, September 2014]

Adult Northern Gannet in non-breeding plumage and nestling, still partly in white, downy plumage, on their respective nests (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire, England, UK, September 2014]

In- and outgoing traffic of Northern Gannets traveling to and from their hunting grounds (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire, England, UK, September 2014]

Eggs

Size: 79 x 50 mm Colour: First translucent pale-blue, then chalky-white, later stained Shape: Long elliptical

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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