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Northern Gannet

ID Info
Silhouette SeabirdsSeabirds
Northern GannetMorus bassanus
  • ORDER: Suliformes
  • FAMILY: Sulidae

Basic Description

Nearly as large as an albatross, the Northern Gannet is sharp in every respect, with a heavy, sharp bill, pointed tail, and long slender wings. Adults are snowy white with black wingtips and a crown washed with gold. To see gannets hunting fish is one of North America’s great wildlife spectacles: flocks rain down upon the ocean, blizzardlike, by the thousands, looking like a force of nature. The birds’ excellent vision and vigorous vocalizing when diving helps them catch fish as well as avoid collisions with other diving gannets.

More ID Info
image of range map for Northern Gannet
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Northern Gannets spend most of their lives at sea, but at many beaches on the Atlantic Coast there are at least a few close enough to be visible from shore. A patient scan of the Atlantic between late fall and early spring is likely to turn up a few to a few hundred flying around in the distance. In the nonbreeding months, most are between New York and North Carolina. Through binoculars these may be pointy, slow-flapping specks, so bring or borrow a look through a spotting scope to get better views. These birds nest in huge cliffside colonies in places such as Cape St. Mary’s, Newfoundland, Canada.

Other Names

  • Alcatraz Atlántico (Spanish)
  • Fou de Bassan (French)
  • Cool Facts