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Northern Gannet


Northern Gannet - Morus bassanus.

Northern Gannet - Morus bassanus.

Photo © Gannet77 / iStockphoto.
The Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) is a seabird that grows to lengths of 32in-35in (81cm-89cm) and weights of 1lb-6.5lb (0.5kg-3kg). The northern gannet's body is covered with white feathers and it has a long powerful bill, well-adapted for capturing fish. Its head and neck are a light golden to buff color and it has black wingtips and black webbed feet. Its eyes and bill are a light bluish color and it has black facial markings surrounding its bill and eye.

Northern gannets form long term pairs and often return to the same nest again and again. They form large, dense nesting colonies (also known as gannetries) on steep rocky coastal cliffs. Northern gannets plunge dive at speeds of up to 60mph (100kph) into the sea, catching fish with their powerful bills. They feed on surface-schooling fish such as mackerel and herring. Their bodies are streamlined and well-suited for this diving behavior.


Where to See:

North Atlantic, Mediterranean. Open ocean. Nests on steep rocky coastal cliffs.


  • Burnie D, Wilson DE. 2001. Animal. London: Dorling Kindersley. 624 p.
  • Mowbray TB. 2002. Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), The Birds of North America, No. 693 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA. September 17, 2005.
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