The Northern Gannet is a seabird and is the largest member of the gannet family. Young birds are dark brown in their first year, and gradually acquire more white in subsequent seasons until they reach maturity after five years. Adults are 32–43 in long, weigh 4.9–7.9 lbs and have a 65–71 in wingspan. Before fledging, the immature birds (at about 10 weeks of age) can weigh more than 8.8 lb. Their plumage is white with black wing tips. The bill is light bluish. The eye is light blue, and it is surrounded by bare, black skin. During breeding, the head and neck are brushed in a delicate yellow. Their breeding range is the North Atlantic. They normally nest in large colonies, on cliffs overlooking the ocean or on small rocky islands. 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. These birds are spectacular divers, plunging into the ocean at high speed, with their bodies completely straightened out like an arrow before striking the water. If a fish is taken after diving, gannets swallow the fish underwater before surfacing. Although they are strong and agile fliers, they are clumsy in takeoffs and landings. They mainly eat small fish which gather in groups near the surface. Virtually any small fish (roughly 80–90% of the diet) or squid) will be taken opportunistically. Various cod, smelt, and herring species are most frequently taken.
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