Gannet (Morus serrator)
Species: M. serrator
Binomial name: Morus serrator
Synonym: Sula bassana
Common name: Gannet, Australian Gannet, Tākapu, Australasian Gannet
Morus serrator is a large seabird of the gannet family Sulidae. Adults are mostly white, with black flight feathers at the wingtips and lining the trailing edge of the wing. The central tail feathers are also black. The head is yellow, with a pale blue-grey bill edged in black and blue-rimmed eyes.
Young birds have mottled plumage in their first year, dark above and light below. The head is an intermediate mottled grey, with a dark bill. The birds gradually acquire more white in subsequent seasons until they reach maturity after five years. Immature gannets return to New Zealand when 2–5 years of age and breed from 4–7 years of age. With an estimated life span of 25–38 years, gannets are one of the longest living sea birds.
Morus serrator breeds in New Zealand (87% of total population) and the rest on Norfolk group of islands and Australia. In New Zealand they breed in about 28 colonies, the largest being Gannet Island, west of Kawhia, and White Island in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Each having over 10,000 breeding pairs each. There is a large protected colony on the mainland at Cape Kidnappers (6,500 pairs). There are also mainland colonies at Muriwai and Farewell Spit, as well as numerous other island colonies. Gannet pairs may remain together over several seasons. They perform elaborate greeting rituals at the nest, stretching their bills and necks skywards and gently tapping bills together. The adults mainly stay close to colonies, whilst the younger birds disperse.
These birds are plunge divers and spectacular fishers, plunging into the ocean at high speed. They mainly eat squid and forage fish which school near the surface.
Gannet island of Kawhia is Taranaki nearest colony and it is birds from there that can be seen working off North Taranaki coast. Gannet Island is a protected wildlife sanctuary, it was found to be the country's largest single breeding colony of Australasian Gannets in a 1980 census. The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area, by Birdlife International.
Gannets resting after feeding.
The main colonies in New Zealand
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