Gannets - Hebridean Birds
Western Isles Birds - Gannets - Hebridean Birds - Western Isles Birds.

The gannet's supposed capacity for eating large quantities of fish has led to "gannet" becoming a disapproving description of somebody who eats excessively - a glutton!

At sea the gannets flap and then glide low over the water, often travelling in small groups.

The Typical lifespan is about 17years - although some gannets have been recorded to have reached 37 years.
       
Buzzard -  Western Isles
Photo Gallery  - Gannet  Images
Bird Overview - Gannet
Family
Boobies & Gannets
Latin name
Morus bassanus

 Population
Common


Similar Species
Fulmar
Herring Gull
Description
The gannet is one of the largest seabirds in the world. Adults are large and bright white with black wingtips.

With its long black tipped white wings, long dagger shaped bill - orange and yellow on the adult birds and its pointed tail it is very distinctive.

The young are dark brown with finely spotted underparts and it takes three or more years to get adult plumage; immature birds can be a mix of dark and light markings.

The gannets have blue eyes surrounded by bare, black skin.

Size
Goose size ( 87-100cm )
Habitat
Two thirds of the world’s gannets nest in the UK, with the largest northern gannet colony found in the famous Scottish islands of St Kilda near the Isle of Harris and Lewis. They spend most of their lives over water. Gannets nest in dense colonies on cliffs

Food
These birds eat fish
Voice
On the breeding site their rough throaty hard barking can be heard.
Breeding

Gannets pair for life and breed annually, occupying the same nest each year. The pairs of gannets have a series of entertaining displays to keep their bond strong - including a mutual "fencing" of the bills combined with bowing.

The male builds a nest out of seaweed, feathers, grass and earth - and all kept together with the birds droppings, making the pile12 inches high but reaching as high as 6.5 ft over the years.

Just a single egg is laid and it takes 40 days to hatch.

It is incubated under their large webbed feet. The adult gannets feed the chick regurgitated fish. The adult gannets make very long round trips of 250miles or more just to find food for a single visit.

After about 80 days the adult birds just cease to visit and after another week the young birds who have "got the message" leave to begin the long road five to six years to breeding maturity.



Misc. Info
Gannet - a Glutton
The gannet's supposed capacity for eating large quantities of fish has led to "gannet" becoming a disapproving description of somebody who eats excessively - a glutton! Each young gannet eats about 30kilos (65 pounds) of fish before it leaves its colony.

Young Gannets have Eaten so Much - Unable to take off

The young birds after 13weeks of eating - jump off the cliffs and flop-glide to the sea below - they are actually unable to take off again for a week or more until their excess fat reserves have been used up.

Glide - then Dive
At sea they flap and then glide low over the water, often travelling in small groups. The only thing that stops their slow glide and relaxed flying is when they spot some food. When this happens the gannet then gains height to 30m (100 ft) or more above the surface of the sea and then after checking - the gannet tumbles into a spectacular nosedive, closing their wings at the last moment and making a huge splash on impact. They look to me almost like those paper rockets we used to make as kids - only much more spectacular of course.

Gannets Adaptations
Gannets have a number of adaptations which enable them to dive in this spectacular way.

a) they have no external nostrils
b) they have air sacs in their face and chest under their skin which act like bubble wrap, cushioning the impact with the water
c) their eyes are positioned far enough forward on their face to give them binocular vision, which allows them to judge distances accurately

The Typical lifespan is about 17yrs - although some gannets have been recorded to have reached 37 years.

St Kilda - Containers
The inflated dried stomachs of the gannets were used on St Kilda as containers.

Buzzard - Western Isles
The Folklore that tells How the Gannet came to Be into Existence - Ceyx and Alcyone
It is said that Alycone who was the daughter of Aeolus, the king of the winds was married to Ceyx - and that he was quite obstinate and was intent on taking a long trip to consult with an oracle on a state matter. She argued with him that the journey was too dangerous and the seas too stormy. However, the end result was that he went anyway.

Ceyx didn't come back
Ceyx didn't return - he died at sea with the rest of his crew - he was said to be uttering her name as he died. Alycone didn't accept or know for definite that he was dead and night after night she went to the temple of Hera and prayed for his safe return

Hera took pity on Alycone and sent an "apparition"
The goddess Hera got Morpheus the god of sleep to assist her and she arranged for an apparition to appear before Alcyone in the shape and form of that of her late husband who told her that he had died and that her name had been on his lips as he drowned. He asked that she accept this and send him her tears - he didn't want to step into the shadows without them. She held out her hand and asked him to wait for her and said that she would go with him - but he faded into the darkness and was gone.

She Found His Body
The following morning it is said that she walked on the beach and that she saw floating towards her coming to rest on the sand - his body - she held him in her arms and wept and wept. The sight of her - was seen by the gods who took pity and from then Ceyx and Alycone were given new lives - transformed into birds. Ceyx was granted the white wings and yellow head of the gannet - whilst Alycone was given the beautiful colours of the kingfisher,

Gannet and Kingfisher - Ceyx and Alycone

As you probably are aware the gannet frequents entirely different waters to that of the kingfisher - the gannet has the ocean as its habitat and the kingfisher inland riverbanks. It is said however that on lovely still days the two birds meet above the ocean - how romantic is this story?

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