Our Beautiful World
There are six families in this group, each one genus and all together 67 species.
Family Pelecanidae - Pelicanes
Family Phalacrocoracidae - Cormorants
on separate page
Family Anhingidae - Darters
Family Sulidae- Gannets and boobies
Abbott's Booby, Papasula abbotti
Family Phaethontidae - Tropicbirds
Northern Gannet, Morus bassanus
© Canadian Wildlife Service
This bird is a fast and powerful flyer but its short legs and large
webbed feet make it awkward at landings and take-offs.
The Northern Gannet is one of three subspecies of Gannet Morus
bassanus in the world: the other two occur along
Adult gannets have dazzling white plumage except for narrow grey
spectacles and jet black, tapering wingtips.
the nesting birds. If disturbed, gannets will often desert their nest, particularly if they are nesting for the first time.
The offshore islands and steep cliffs that appeal to gannets have sometimes been selected for lighthouses, and several
gannetries were probably abandoned in the 19th and early 20th centuries because lighthouses were built on them.
Its short legs and large webbed feet make the gannet a slow and clumsy creature on land.
A fast and powerful flyer, it is nevertheless awkward at landing and taking off.
The Gannet breeds in large colonies on the coast and islands of north-west Europe with a few colonies in North America around Newfoundland. When not breeding, they spend their time out at sea in the North Atlantic and south to waters off West Africa.
© Arthur Grosset
The bird wanting to leave for a flight solemnly raises the head and points the bill tip skyward, partly spreads the wings,
and depresses the tail. With weird moans it waddles and hops its way toward the cliff edge or a less crowded part of the colony.
Each time it passes too close to a neighbour, a furor is created with many a bill thrust and vocal threat received.
Using both legs and wings, it rushes ahead and becomes airborne.
Once in the air its flight is easy and graceful, alternating flaps and glides.
Aboutr 444 000 Northern Gannets nest at 34 colonies on the European side of the Atlantic. There are six colonies in Iceland,
with a total of 25 000 pairs. In the British Isles, including Ireland, the Shetland Islands, and the Faeroe Islands,
there are 22 Northern Gannet colonies, for a total population of 189 700 pairs.
The Northern Gannet became established in Norway in 1946, but there are only five colonies with a total population
of 2 300 pairs. There is also a gannet colony in northern France, with 6 000 pairs.
A nestling or "guga". Eggs and gugas were a major source of food for islanders such as the St Kildans in the recent past.
© Arthur Grosset
Few seabirds are more spectacular in their fishing methods than this one. The gannet may fly alone or as part of a group,
usually cruising 18 to 30 m above the sea. When a gannet sees a fish in the water below, it dives more or less vertically,
with partially folded wings and great speed.
Its impact with the water may send spray as high as 3 m, and the momentum of its dive is thought to carry the bird below its prey.
Swimming strongly with the aid of its large webbed feet, and possibly at times with its wings, the gannet captures its prey.
On reaching the surface, or even before, it swallows the fish and takes off to resume the hunt or to return to the gannetry
to feed its nestling. A diving gannet is a signal to others cruising nearby that a shoal of fish may be present,
and they fly to investigate. On seeing a large shoal, they attack in great numbers.
Source for text: Canadian Wildlife Service (http://www.hww.ca/hww2.asp?id=58)
Gannets diving for fish
Green Umbrella Ltd., Bristol