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Gannet

Morus bassana

Gainead

Solan (Scotland)

Status:  Resident along all Irish coasts.

Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland due to its localised breeding population. The European population has been evaluated as Secure.

Identification: A large seabird with long, narrow wings. Plunge dives into the sea from up to 40 metres, folding wings back on decent to hit the water in a streamlined shape. Long neck, head and bill. Large projecting wedge shaped tail. Large dark webbed feet. In adult plumage is white both above and below with large dark wing tips and a yellowish head. Takes 4 years to reach adult plumage. Juvenile bird is all brown (apart from upper tail coverts), with beautiful fine white speckling. Attains adult plumage slowly with sub-adult birds showing white under sides and a variable amount of black in the wing.

Similar Species: Adults are unmistakable. Young birds could be confused with the larger Shearwaters.

Call: Noisy at colonies, producing loud grating noises.

Diet: Fish

Breeding: Breeds in colonies on islands off the coast. There main Gannet colonies are located on Great Saltee, Co. Wexford, the Bull Rock, Co. Cork and on Little Skellig in Co. Kerry. A small colony is also found on Irelands Eye, Co. Dublin. Little Skelligs is by far the largest colony with over 26,000 nests and many thousands of additional non breeding birds in attendance. During the 'Seabird 2000' survey, the 26,000 nests recorded at Little Skellig, was an increase from 22,500 recorded at the time of the previous survey in in 1984/5.

Wintering: Winters at seas, but can be seen in Irish waters throughout the year.

Where to See: Gannets can be seen off all coastal areas in Ireland throughout the year. However, the best place to see Gannets is at Little Skellig, where it is possible to see this impressive bird at very close range, as well as experiencing the comings and goings of the breeding colony.

Monitored by: Breeding seabirds are monitored through surveys carried out every 15-20 years, the last was Seabird 2000, which was undertaken between 1998 & 2002. 

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