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Australasian Gannet

 

Australasian gannet (Morus serrator)

Australasian Gannet
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The Australasian gannet is also locally known as “takapu”. They typically breed in large colonies around New Zealand and Australia with the largest colony at Cape Kidnappers, Napier with 6,500 breeding pairs. The closest breeding colony to Kaikoura is at Farewell Spit, where the birds nest on shell banks at sea level.

Gannets are highly distinctive seabirds with a 2m wingspan, black tipped wings and a yellow head. Juvenile birds are speckled brown and may take up to 5 years to obtain adult plumage.

Gannets mate for life with a single egg laid between mid-September to mid-December. The egg is incubated by both parents and both adults are kept busy feeding the chick, although one adult remains behind to guard the chick. By the time the birds are 4 months old, weighing up to 3kg’s and without having taken their first flight, they undertake a huge migration to Australia. Travelling up to 2,800km they head towards the eastern and southern coasts of Australia where they remain for 2-5 years. Breeding begins when they are 4-7 years old.

Adult birds do not migrate spending spring and summer round their breeding colonies before dispersing to coastal waters around New Zealand for winter.

When gannets are searching for food, they fly parallel to the coast looking for squid and fish. Once prey is located they begin to dive reaching speeds of up to 145km/hr. At the last minute, the birds fold their wings back before hitting the water and rely on inflatable air sacs around the neck and chest to absorb the impact. Their prey is grabbed and taken to the surface to consume.

The average lifespan of a gannet is between 25 to 40 years and they are believed to be one of the longest lived seabirds.