Australasian Gannet in flight Click to enlarge image
An Australasian Gannet flying above a gannet colony in Muriwai, New Zealand. Image: Alex Hague
© Alex Hague All Rights Reserved

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    serrator
    Genus
    Morus
    Family
    Sulidae
    Order
    Phalacrocoraciformes
    Class
    Aves
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    Very large 84 cm to 95 cm

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.

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.

Habitat

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

Distribution

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



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.

Breeding behaviours

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

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.