Man, I’d never heard of these birds before but if this is how they act, I want to remain far, far away.
Gannets are a large white bird with yellow heads and black tipped wings that measure up to 6 and a half feet wide. They are split into three distinct species (Northern, Cape, and Australasian) primarily based on location and are found in and around the United Kingdom, south Africa, southern Australia, and New Zealand.
They are closely related to boobies (had to throw that in), which are seabirds that often feature blue feet. Boobies have many of the same characteristics of gannets, which are explained well in the video’s description, so let’s read it straight from there.
“They hunt their prey by diving from as high as 40m (130ft), slamming into the water at speeds of up to 100kph (62mph), and plunging themselves up to 35m (115ft) below the surface, allowing them to catch fish much deeper than most airborne seabirds. Along with their streamlined bodies and powerful neck muscles, gannets have a special adaptation that allows them to break the surface tension of the water without injury – air sacs located under the skin of the face and chest cushion them from the impact with the sea. These air sacs are connected to the lungs. They are filled with air when the bird breathes in and that air is returned to the lungs by squeezing (contracting) the muscles around them. The gannet’s nostrils (more like slits) are located inside the bill, when they dive these slits are covered by a flap of hard tissue to prevent the sea from forcing its way inside.”
These guys hit the water at over 60 mph and dive down to 115 feet below the surface to catch fish? That’s one of the most insane things I’ve ever learned about wildlife, and trust me I spend a fair bit of my time researching…
Another somewhat fun fact I learned about these guys is their genus name is Morus, which was derived from the ancient Greek word moros meaning means “Stupid” or “Foolish”, because they would constantly land on boats and walk straight up to sailors, allowing them to easily be caught and used for food.
This particular video comes to us from Trinity Bay, New Zealand and shows a flock of gannets absolutely swarming a school of herring. Those poor fish never saw it coming and had no chance against this relentless attack. Seeing hundreds of these birds work together to ensure everyone gets a bite to eat is extraordinarily impressive.
Gannets and boobies… more cool animals that I didn’t know existed.