Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)

This is my site on the Northern Gannet, the Albatross of the northern hemisphere. Find images, information and bird facts on the species below.

Northern Gannet in flight
Northern Gannet head shot
Northern Gannet head shot
Northern Gannet

Basics on the Northern Gannet

The Northern Gannet is a large seabird and larger than seagulls, with a longish body, long narrow wings, long neck and a strong, pointed bill. Gannets are social birds during breeding season. Outside the breeding season they are mainly solitary. Most time of the year they live a life out on the Atlantic ocean and only come to shore for breeding. This is the best time to watch them.

The gannet is a typical north Atlantic seabird where it takes the place of the Albatross which lives in the southern hemisphere. In other words, the Northern Gannet is the Albatross of the north Atlantic.

The southernmost breeding colony in the North Sea is on the German island of Heligoland. Since 1991 gannets have continued to breed on the island and return in strength every year.

Northern Gannet head shot

Northern Gannet – Bird Facts:


Order: Procellariformes
Family: Sulidae
Genus: Morus
Species: Northern Gannet

Scientific Name: Morus bassanus

Names and Synonyms of the Northern Gannet:

Name in German: Basstölpel
Name in French: Fou de Bassan
Name in Spanish: Alcatraz Atlántico
Name in Portuguese: Ganso-patola
Name in Dutch: Jan-van-gent
Name in Italian: Sula
Name in Iceland: Súla
Name in North Sami: Suvla
Name in Faroer: Grásúla, Hvítsúla
Name in Finish: Suula
Name in Danish: Sule
Name in Swedish: Havssula

northern gannet flight display
Northern Gannet Flight Display
northern gannets colony

Distribution – Movements – Habitat and Behaviour

Distribution: The Northern Gannet is distributed at the shorelines and islands of the North Atlantic. Currently it appears that the gannet is extending distribution area. Colonies exist in Norway, Iceland, Faroe, Shetlands, Orkneys British Isles, French western North Sea Coast, Germany southern North Sea.

Movements: Adult gannets are sedentary and return to their colony every year. Juvenile gannets migrate in their first three years in the east Atlantic and also move southwards to tropical West Africa before they begin returning to their breeding colonies. From their third year immature gannets appear first in their breeding colony where they mostly dwell on the sidelines and don’t breed

Habitat: Gannets breed on rocky islands, close to the coast and on steep cliffs. It is necessary that the nest site is exposed to wind and close to feeding ground.

Behaviour: Gannets are solitary and often in pairs. During breeding season they are territorial but only defend the space adjacent to the nest which is no more than about 30 cm. This area gives only enough room for the partner to stand beside the nest. Any intruder will be attacked feroceously. When returning to the nest the gannet first hovers over the colony to find the correct spot to land on. Missing the own home spot and landing in neighbouring territories leads to bloody fights during which the hapless bird can get severely wounded. I have seen such fights myself and it is quite impressive how bitter these fights can be.

Northern Gannet chick – freshly hatched
northern gannet chicken in nest
Northern Gannet chick
northern gannet breeding pair
Northern Gannet breeding pair
northern gannet colony
Northern Gannets
northern gannet colony
Northern Gannet colony

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