Northern Gannet

Morus bassanus




Boobies and Gannets (Sulidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Light blue, nest stained

Number of Eggs:


Incubation Days:

42 - 44

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

On ground or cliff ledges.

Nest Material:

Grass, seaweed.





Northern Gannet: Very large seabird. White above and below with black primaries and long pointed wings. Light buff-yellow wash on crown of head extending down nape may be visible. Bill, legs, and feet are gray. Sexes are similar. Juvenile has speckled gray upperparts, faintly streaked gray underparts, and dark tail with white uppertail coverts.

Range and Habitat

Northern Gannet: Pelagic species found along the Atlantic coast of North America. Often seen from shore, it also may be found far from shore in the open ocean. Breeds on the coasts of extreme north eastern Canada. Winters from Maine to just south of the Texas-Mexico border along Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Breeding and Nesting

Northern Gannet: Monogamous colonial nester often with long term pairing. Male and female build nest of grass and seaweed on coastal rocky cliff, ground or rocky island. Nest may be reused in subsequent years with material being added to repair it. Female lays one light blue egg that becomes nest stained. Both sexes incubate egg for 42 to 44 days and tend altricial nestlings until fledging at 84 to 97 days.

Foraging and Feeding

Northern Gannet: Pelagic species, feeds on fish, especially mackerel and herring, and squid. Steadily flaps and glides into the wind above water scanning for prey. Dives into water from heights averaging 30 to 50 feet, rarely up to 90 feet. Reinforced skull helps dampen diving impact on the head. Dives produce little or no splash.


Northern Gannet: Usually non-vocal. Feeding call a low barking "grrah, grrah, grrah" or "grrrrrou."

Similar Species

Northern Gannet: Masked Booby has a black tail and wide black trailing edge of wing.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The crown is the top part of the birds head.
Also called the hindneck or collar, it is the back of the neck where the head joins the body.
The primaries are the flight feathers specialized for flight. They are attached to the "hand" equivalent part of the wing.
The pelagic is a type of bird whose habitat is on the open ocean rather than in a coastal region or on inland bodies of water (lakes, rivers). An example of a pelagic bird is the blacklegged kittiwake.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X