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Australasian Gannet, Morus serrator

Photo by Peter Grant

Description

The Australasian Gannet is a large seabird to 95 cm in length and with a wingspan of 1.6 m. The body is largely 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. 

Habitat

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

Diet

Australasian Gannets are accomplished fishers. Birds fold their wings back and plunge like arrows into the water to catch fish or squid. The prey 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

The Australasian Gannet breeds in dense colonies on islands off Tasmania and also Victoria. The young do not reach breeding maturity until about six or seven years old.
Distribution Map courtesy Natural Values Atlas, data from theLIST © 2010 State of Tasmania.

Distribution

Australasian Gannets occur throughout southern and south-eastern Australia, and New Zealand. In Tasmania they are often seen from boats, including the Bass Strait ferry and ferries running to Bruny and Maria Islands.