Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

May 7, 2009

Australasian Gannets 090504

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 11:26 am

Photographing Australasian Gannets, 4th May, 2009

On Monday I went down to Newcastle Baths for a swim. Whilst there, I saw the Australasian Gannets flying over relatively close to the Baths and diving for fish. So, I hurried up with my swim and jumped on the treadlie and hot-footed it back home to get my camera to take some photos of these magnificent birds. I have always loved watching Gannets diving for fish. It is one of the most spectacular sights ever.

So, let us start with the photos. Here is a juvenile cruising above the ocean, looking for fish. They usually fly around in a circle trying to spot where the fish are.

Australasian Gannet

Australasian Gannets are a familiar sight off the southern coast of Australia and are expert fishers. They soar above the surface of the ocean, herding fish into dense shoals.

Australasian Gannet

After they have spotted their fish, they fold their wings back and dive.

Australasian Gannet

They will adjust their dive with their wings and tail as they are going down, and often will pull out of the dive. Sometimes, instead of diving straight down, they will come down at an angle.

Australasian Gannet

They are extremely streamlined and rocket into the water at a great rate of knots. When they are entering the water, their wings are fully folded back and they make the slightest of splashes, even daintier than an Olympic diver.

Australasian Gannet

The fish are grasped with the aid of small serrations that point backwards along the edge of the bill. A bird stays under the water for only about 10 seconds, and normally swallows the fish before it reaches the surface again. And off it flies, flapping its wings and paddling away furiously.

Australasian Gannet

Finally, the Australasian Gannet gets airborne and wings away over the ocean, ascending gradually and going into a circling formation, ready for the next dive, and the next fish.

Australasian Gannet

In New Zealand, the Maori people caught the young gannets for food and used the bones and plumage of the adults. They used the bones of the Australasian Gannet for chiselling tools that were used in the elaborate facial tattooing. The white feathers of the adult Gannet were used to decorate canoes or worn by tribal elders.

Australasian Gannets(Morus serrator) belong to Family: Sulidae and Order: Pelecaniformes. Their conservation status is “Secure”.

Darren Naish writes in his blog:

From a starting point 30 m or so up in the air, gannets launch themselves at the water at about 24 m/s (that's 86 km/h or 53 mp/h, I think). Using tail, wings and feet, they adjust their trajectory and angle before beginning the entire process: Nelson (1980) wrote that 'Gannets may hustle down in one straight air-slide, corkscrew or even tip backwards of vertical before shooting their wings behind them and entering the water like an arrow'

Go here To read a really good article about Gannets by Darren.

Sources: teara.govt.nz, austmus.gov.au, birdsinbackyards.net,

1 Comment »

  1. I found one of the three spots where they breed in New Zealand.
    Muriwai Beach, north of Auckland. awesome.
    http://www.math.auckland.ac.nz/~hafner/gannets/

    Comment by admin — September 12, 2011 @ 11:29 pm

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