Northern Gannet

1/2500s at f6.3, ISO:1250, Canon Mark III 1Ds w/800mm

The Northern Gannet is a seabird and is the largest member of the gannet family. Their breeding range is the North Atlantic. They normally nest in large colonies, on cliffs overlooking the ocean or on small rocky islands. The largest colony of this bird, with over 60,000 couples, is found on Bonaventure Island, Quebec. Gannet pairs may remain together over several seasons. They perform elaborate greeting rituals at the nest, stretching their bills and necks skywards and gently tapping bills together. They are migratory and most winter at sea, heading further south in the Atlantic. These birds are spectacular divers, plunging into the ocean at high speed. They mainly eat small fish (2.5-30.5 cm in length) that gather in groups near the surface. Virtually any small fish (roughly 80-90% of the diet) or other small pelagic species (largely squid) will be taken opportunistically. Various cod, smelt and herring species are most frequently taken. Although Northern Gannet populations are now stable, their numbers were once greatly reduced due to loss of habitat, removal of eggs and killing of adults. Predators of eggs and nestlings include great black-backed and herring gulls, common ravens, ermine and red fox. The only known natural predator of adults is the bald eagle, though large sharks and seals may rarely snatch a gannet out at sea.