Animal Species:Australasian Gannet

Australasian Gannets are expert fishers. They only stays under the water for about ten seconds, but the fish is normally swallowed before the bird reaches the surface.

Australasian Gannet in flight

Alex Hague © Alex Hague

Standard Common Name

Australasian Gannet

Identification

The male and female Australasian Gannet are similar in plumage. Most of the body is white, with dark tips on the major wing feathers and the inner tail feathers. The head is buff-yellow and the bill pale blue-grey with striking black borders to the bill sheaths. In immature birds, the head and upperparts are mostly brown with scattered amounts of white spotting. Small flocks are sometimes seen soaring above the ocean, and an individual bird will suddenly fold its wings back and dive spectacularly into the water.

Size range

Very large 84 cm to 95 cm

Distribution

Australasian Gannets are found throughout southern and south-eastern Australia, to New Zealand.

Habitat

Australasian Gannets are seabirds and are a familiar sight off the coast.

Feeding and Diet

Australasian Gannets are expert fishers. Birds soar 10 m or more above the surface of the water, herding fish into dense shoals, then fold their wings back and dive into the water to catch their prey. The fish are grasped with the aid of small backward-pointing serrations along the edges of the bill. A bird only stays under the water for about ten seconds, but the fish is normally swallowed before the bird reaches the surface.

Mating and reproduction

In Australia, the Australasian Gannet breeds in dense colonies on islands off Victoria and Tasmania. Breeding colonies are also found off the coast of New Zealand, mostly off the North Island. The young do not reach breeding maturity until about six or seven years old.

  • Breeding Season: October and November
  • Incubation: 44 days
  • Time in nest: 100 days

Classification

Species:
serrator
Genus:
Morus
Family:
Sulidae
Order:
Phalacrocoraciformes
Class:
Aves
Subphylum:
Vertebrata
Phylum:
Chordata
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?

References

  • Lindsey, T.R. 1986. The Seabirds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife Sydney.
  • Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (eds.) 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol 1. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.


Ondine Evans , Web Researcher/Editor
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Tags BIBY, bird, birds, sea birds, Australian,