A bit like gulls but speedier, Northern Gannets were flying out beyond the breakers near Bob Graham Beach the other day.
In the order Suliformes, gannets are related to boobies, frigatebirds, cormorants and anhingas.
The Sulidae family are boobies and gannets, a very cool bunch. I’ve always wanted to go to the Galapagos and see Blue-footed Boobies show off their feet to each other.
They have long, narrow and pointed wings, and a quite long, graduated and rather lozenge-shaped tail whose outer feathers are shorter than the central ones. Their flight muscles are rather small to allow for the small cross section required for plunge-diving, and thus their wing loading is high. Consequently, they are very streamlined, reducing drag, so their bodies are “torpedo-shaped” as well as somewhat flat.
Watch gannets plunge into the sea to hunt for fish on the Smithsonian Channel. Amazing!
The darker ones are juveniles.
In North America, the Northern Gannet breeds in only six well established colonies: three in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, and three in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland.
They winter at sea, all along the Atlantic Coast and into the Gulf of Mexico. I know they were off the NH coast, but I’ve never seen one. I’m glad they came close enough for a few photos!
Some neat pics on the Wikipedia page for Northern Gannets.