• Name: Northern Gannet | Morus bassanus
  • Size: 2 metre wingspan
  • Life span: 35 years
  • Diet: Gannets mainly eat fish which school near the surface (i.e. Sardines, Anchovies, Mackerel)
  • Reproduction: Gannets are monogamous, forming long-lasting pair bonds; with a female laying 1 egg between March and April (Gannets do not breed in Scilly; however, they are present all year round as they travel huge distances every day for food.  The nearest Gannet colony to Scilly is Les Etacs off Alderney, in the Channel Islands, so we assume that Scilly gannets are in fact from Alderney, at least those seen in the summer.
  • When to see: All year round (January to December)
  • Where to see: Can often be seen fishing off of Scilly's shores i.e. Peninnis, St Mary's | Chapel Down, St Martins | Shipman Head, Bryher in Scilly.  Alternatively, head out with a WiSe accredited boating provider to deeper waters off the Islands where Gannets are often found feeding
  • Conservation status: ICUN Redlist | Least Concern.
  • Population Trend: Increasing
  • Threats:  Human activity (i.e. trawling, energy production), pollution, climate change (changes in weather patterns, changing sea temperatures). 
  • Fun Fact: Gannets can locate their prey, by sight, from heights of around 45 metres above the sea; diving vertically into the sea at speeds of around 62 mph to catch fish.

Description: Adult gannets are large, bright white birds with black wingtips.

Gannets are distinctively shaped with a long neck and long pointed beak, long pointed tail, and long pointed wings.

At sea Gannets flap and then glide low over the water, often travelling in small groups (collectively known as a "company" or a "plunging").

Gannets feed by flying high and circling before plunging into the sea.

They breed in significant numbers at only a few localities such as the Channel Islands and Wales.

Juveniles are brown and white, tending to look quite dirty, and can appear quite clumsy.

Bonus Fact!  Gannets have air sacs in their lower body, along their sides, located between the pectoral muscles and between the ribs and intercostal muscles; these protect their internal organs during "high-dives" when hitting the water. 


Do remember that we rely on donations to continue our work.  If you have searched, found and learned about Scilly's wildlife on our website, please Support Us and give what you can.  Thank you 💚

Support Us


With thanks to Joe Pender for the Gannet image