Gannet (Morus Bassanus)

There are actually three species of Gannets:

  • Northern Gannet, (also known as “Solan Goose”), Morus bassanus
  • Cape Gannet, Morus capensis
  • Australasian Gannet, Morus serrator
  • This post will focus on the Northern Gannet, also known as the “Solan Goose” or Morus bassanus. Northern Gannets are the largest seabird in the North Atlantic with a wingspan of 6 to 6.74 feet long!! Quite a big and impressive bird.

    According to Wikipedia,

    Gannets hunt fish by diving from a height into the sea and pursuing their prey underwater. Gannets have a number of adaptations which enable them to do this:

    • they have no external nostrils;
    • they have air sacs in their face and chest under their skin which act like bubble wrapping, cushioning the impact with the water;
    • their eyes are positioned far enough forward on their face to give them binocular vision, allowing them to judge distances accurately.

    Gannets can dive from a height of 30 m, achieving speeds of 100 km/h as they strike the water, enabling them to catch fish much deeper than most airborne birds.

    The gannet’s supposed capacity for eating large quantities of fish has led to “gannet” becoming a disapproving description of somebody who eats excessively, similar to “glutton”.

    Gannets are colonial breeders on islands and coasts, which normally lay one chalky blue egg. It takes five years for gannets to reach maturity. First-year birds are completely black, and subsequent sub-adult plumages show increasing amounts of white.

    The most important nesting ground for Northern gannets is the United Kingdom with about two thirds of the world’s population. These live mainly in Scotland and the Shetland Isles. The rest of the world’s population is divided between Canada, Ireland, Faroe Islands and Iceland, with small numbers in France (they are often seen in the Bay of Biscay), the Channel Islands and Norway. The biggest Northern gannet colony is in the Scottish islands of St Kilda; this colony alone comprises 20% of the entire world’s population. Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth, Grassholm in Pembrokeshire and Bonaventure Island, Quebec are also important Northern gannet breeding sites.

    In Popular Culture,

    • In many parts of the United Kingdom, the term Gannet is used to refer to people that steadily eat vast quantities of food especially at public functions.
    • The Gannetwhale is a hypothetical descendant of the gannet seen in the television show The Future Is Wild.
    • The Cape Gannet is featured in the 2008 film Wild Ocean.

    Some photographs of gannets by Andrew Green at

    Photo by Andrew Green (

    Photo by Andrew Green (

    Read on to see more photos of the Northern Gannet…

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