Our Beautiful World

Pelicans, Frigatebirds, Darters, Gannets and Tropicbirds,
Pelecaniformes



Northern Gannets are large birds about 1 metre long with a wingspan of around 1¾ metres.
© Arthur Grosset


The Pelecaniformes is a (possibly invalid?) order of medium-sized and large waterbirds found worldwide.
Most have a bare throat patch (gular patch), and the nostrils have evolved into dysfunctional slits, forcing them to
breathe through their mouths. They feed on fish, squid or similar marine life. Nesting is colonial, but individual birds
are monogamous. The young are altricial, hatching from the egg helpless and naked in most. They lack a brood patch.

There are six families in this group, each one genus and all together 67 species.

Order Pelecaniformes
Family Fregatidae - Frigatebirds,
Genus Fregata

Engelsk Norsk Latinsk
Christmas Island Frigatebird Christmasfregattfugl Fregata andrewsi
Ascension Island Frigatebird Ascensionfregattfugl Fregata aquila
Lesser Frigatebird Småfregattfugl Fregata ariel
Magnificent Frigatebird Praktfregattfugl Fregata magnificens
Great Frigatebird Storfregattfugl Fregata minor

Family Pelecanidae - Pelicanes
Genus Pelecanus
English Norsk Latin
Australian Pelican Australpelikan Pelecanus conspicillatus
Dalmatian Pelican Krøllpelikan Pelecanus crispus
American White Pelican Amerikapelikan Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
Brown Pelican Brunpelikan Pelecanus occidentalis
Great White Pelican Hvitpelikan Pelecanus onocrotalus
Spot-billed Pelican Flekknebbpelikan Pelecanus philippensis
Pink-backed Pelican Rosenpelikan Pelecanus rufescens
Peruvian Pelican Humboldtpelikan Pelecanus thagus

Family Phalacrocoracidae - Cormorants

Genus: Phalacrocorax
on separate page

Family Anhingidae - Darters
Genus Anhinga
English Norsk Latin
Anhinga / American Darter

Amerikaslangehals

Anhinga anhinga
Oriental Darter or
Indian Darter

Skjeggslangehals

Anhinga melanogaster
African Darter   Anhinga rufa
Australasian Darter or
Australian Darter
  Anhinga novaehollandiae


Family Sulidae- Gannets and boobies
Genus Morus
English Norsk Latin
Northern Gannet Havsule Morus bassanus
Cape Gannet Kappsule Morus capensis
Australian Gannet Australsule Morus serrator

Genus Papasula
Abbott's Booby, Papasula abbotti

Genus Sula
English Norsk Latin
Abbott's Booby Christmassule Sula abbotti
Masked Booby Maskesule Sula dactylatra
Nazca Booby Nazcasule Sula granti
Brown Booby Brunsule Sula leucogaster
Blue-footed Booby Blåfotsule Sula nebouxii
Red-footed Booby Rødfotsule Sula sula
Peruvian Booby Humboldtsule Sula variegata

Family Phaethontidae - Tropicbirds

Genus Phaethon
Engelsk Norsk Latinsk
Red-billed Tropicbird Rødnebbtropikkfugl Phaethon aethereus
Red-tailed Tropicbird Røhaletropikkfugl Phaethon rubricauda
White-tailed Tropicbird Småtropikkfugl Phaethon lepturus


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.
It can see forward with both eyes—which is unusual in birds. It may also glide for hours just above the wave tips,
seldom moving its wings and finally occupies the same nest year after year, until it becomes a substantial heap
of feathers, fish skeletons, and droppings


Gannets squabbling over nesting material which, it has to be admitted, is in pretty short supply near this gannetry at
Sula Sgeir in the North Atlantic.

© Arthur Grosset

The Northern Gannet is one of three subspecies of Gannet Morus bassanus in the world: the other two occur along
the south coast of Africa and in Tasmania and New Zealand.

Adult gannets have dazzling white plumage except for narrow grey spectacles and jet black, tapering wingtips.
During the breeding season, the head and neck assume a delicate saffron yellow tinge.
The eyes are an icy blue, and the bill is blue to grey-blue.


A small stack near Muckle Flugga off the coast of Hermaness, Unst, Shetland
© Arthur Grosset

Gannetries are located on steep cliffs and small offshore islands. At almost all these sites, land predators cannot reach
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)

ARKive video - Gannets diving for fish
Gannets diving for fish
Green Umbrella Ltd., Bristol
http://www.arkive.org



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ANIMALS

over 250

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BIRDS

over 500

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FLOWERS

over 225
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