Gannet Colours and Markings

The gannet (Morus bassanus) colony is a mass of white bodies and black wing tips.  Gliding through the air these large birds make flight against the high winds of an Atlantic storm look easy.

However, not all are as black and white as they first appear.  Some still have the colours of their younger days.

Starting off as featherless blue and black blobs they gradually develop feathers.  A deep brown colour will appear towards the time they are due to fledge, a moment that must be a relief to the parents after 90 days of three meals a day delivered to the nest. 

When they fledge they will float but can't dive, something a gannet needs to do to feed.  These young birds will go without food for a few weeks as they slim down from their chubby physique to a more slimline version that can dive with the rest of the colony. 

Inmature adults within the colony hang onto their youthful colours, the brown feathers taking up to 7 years to totally vanish. As the brown fades the delicious golden glow to their heads enhanced by the setting sun of a midsummers evening becomes more prominent.  Sometimes though nature plays games and some gannets never age and remain brown just to confuse the situation!


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