The mighty gannet

The mighty gannet


Posted 14th Aug 2017


Image courtesy of © Gillian Day

The seas around our island are the best place in the world to see the beautiful and mesmerising plunge-diver that is the northern gannet, with more than 50 per cent of the world's population nesting here

The size of a goose, they are bright white with pitch black wing tips, a soft creamy orange head, and a long bill, akin to a dagger. When they're seen at their nest site, they can almost appear clumsy - this all changes when they take to the wing, where they are perfectly streamlined, with a wingspan of six foot.

It's when they are hunting that gannets become most impressive. Like many seabirds, they will feed on fish which they catch through diving. When a shoal of fish is found, a large number of gannets gather together, hovering high over the water before turning, folding their wings back tight, and plummeting head first into the water at a great speed.

The feeding frenzy of a gannet flock is arguably one of the most exciting sights you'll see all summer.

How to do it

You'll need to head out to sea if you'd like to see gannets at their best. Binoculars are a must, and you will want to bring your camera too. Even on a sunny day, it can prove to be cold when out on a boat, so it's worth bringing warm clothes and a windproof jacket - you'll be grateful for it once you're out there! For those whose sea legs aren't the greatest, avoid eating heavy or fatty food before the trip, then sit facing the direction the boat is moving and keep your eyes on the horizon - until you spot the birds, of course!

If you're unable to visit any of the special places listed below, it can be possible to see gannets fishing off most of our coasts during the summer, particularly in Scotland where the largest colonies in the world are found.

Special spots

8,000 pairs of gannets make their summer home on Alderney, at the two colonies of Les Etacs and Ortac. Alderney Wildlife Trust runs boat trips during the summer around the western coast, getting up close to all the action of the gannet colony.

Aberdeenshire, Longhaven Cliffs

Pembrokeshire, Skomer

Yorkshire, Flamborough Cliffs - home to one of the largest mainland colonies in the country. Join a Living Seas Safari to see them and much more!

Information and text courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts





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