Northern Gannet
© Beth Clark

Seabird Species

Gannets & Boobies

These streamlined birds are excellent plunge divers.

The Sulidae family is made up of three gannet species and seven booby species, with these groups breeding around temperate and tropical waters respectively. Sulids are around 60 to 85 cm in length and have a wingspan between 140 to 175 cm. 

Gannets and boobies usually breed colonially and catch fish by plunge-diving from above the surface of the water, or sometimes by foraging at fishing vessels

Their streamlined bodies, inbuilt “airbags” and stout“dagger-like” beaks with their nostrils on the inside of their mouths are adapted for this foraging technique. 

In The Seabird Tracking Database:
Colonies: 37
Tracks: 6502
Points: 8768525
Data range: 2003 – 2022
Data holders: 42
Species Tracked

Spotlight species: Northern Gannet

Northern Gannets
© Beth Clark

The Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) is one of the few seabirds with an increasing global population, now ten times larger than the population in 1910 after large-scale harvesting stopped. They breed in colonies on both sides of the North Atlantic, although most colonies are on the east. The largest colony is Bass Rock in Scotland, which is home to an estimated 75,000 breeding pairs. Gannets are faithful to their breeding site and return each year for a breeding season consisting of an incubation period of around 44 days and a chick-rearing period of around 90 days.

Northern Gannets are the largest sulid and provide a useful species for studying seabird foraging behaviour as they are well-suited for carrying small tracking devices. By simultaneously tracking gannets from 12 colonies, Wakefield and colleagues (2013) showed that gannets from different colonies stay in specific foraging ranges, with individuals from larger colonies travelling further to find fish.

Please view this page on a desktop computer to see our interactive species colony map.

Tracked colonies of Gannets & Boobies

Use the map below to explore seabird colonies around the world.

Thanks to our data contributors: Ashley Bennison; Azwianewi Makhado; Bethany Clark; Christopher Pollock; David Gremillet; Ewan Wakefield; Frazer Sinclair; Henri Weimerskirch; Ian Cleasby; Jacob Gonzalez-Solis; Jez Blackburn; Jonathan Green; Jose Pedro Granadeiro; Jude Lane; Justine Dossa; Katrin Ludynia; Keith Hamer; Louise Soanes; Lucy Wright; Mark Jessopp; Matthieu Le Corre; Nina da Rocha; Phil Atkinson; Rachel Davies; Robert Crawford; Roland Gauvain; Rosana Paredes; RSPB Bempton Gannets; Steffen Oppel; Stephen Votier; Stuart Bearhop; Susana Cardenas Alayza; Thomas Bodey; Vitor Paiva