It's always great to see Gannets (Morus Bassanus) on the open ocean on an Orca Sea Safari. They are huge birds but they fly so effortlessly only using their big wings for a few flaps then gliding along with the thermals of air. If we're lucky we may see 40 or 50 of these birds feeding together, plunging into the water from great heights at about 60mph to grab the fish!
Mainly a white body with black wing-tips, a cream/ yellow head and a very long, pointed bill. The wings and tail are very pointed. The juvenile birds are mostly speckled grey all over and the immature birds have varying degrees of grey feathers until they get their full white adult plumage.
Their wingspan is up to 2 metres.
Feeding: The gannet is an amazing hunter. When searching for fish, it circles the sea with its head angled downwards. When it spies a fish it will plummet down towards the water and fold its wings in just as it hits the water to make it more streamline like an arrow. It can be diving at an incredible 60mph when it reaches the water and creates quite a big splash! Once it has grabbed the fish it will come up to the surface to swallow it before taking off again. It mainly feeds on mackerel around Cornwall. We sometimes find them feeding with pods of Common dolphins, stealing fish that the dolphins have worked hard to round up! Distribution: Gannets breed in large colonies around the coast of Britain, mainly in the north and west. The nearest place to Cornwall that they breed is South Wales. The young birds leave the nest in August and September and migrate south to the African coast for the winter. The adults feed along the European and north African coast and return to their breeding colonies in January. Conservation: Gannet populations appear to be stable and slightly increasing currently. However they are extremely vulnerable to being caught in fishing nets. They can often bring back plastic found in the ocean as nesting material which poses a hazard to both young and adult birds. Gannets are susceptible to being killed by oil spills in the ocean, as are all sea birds.
*All photos are taken by Orca Sea Safaris and/or their customers.