Northern Gannet | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Northern Gannet

Morus bassanus

Also known as



Both sides of the Atlantic; from Labrador and Norway south to the equator


Nest on rocky shores & cliffs; feed in the ocean

Feeding Habits

Active (diving) predator

Conservation Status

Not listed


Order Siliformes (cormorants, gannets & relatives); Family Sulidae (gannets and boobies)


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Northern gannets live the vast majority of their lives at sea, only coming ashore to breed and raise their chicks. They are fast and powerful flyers, but can also glide for hours just above the waves, barely flapping their wings. They are plunge-divers, able to enter the water from heights of more than 30 meters in search of fish. Although most of their dives are relatively shallow, Northern gannets can go as deep as 22 meters, using their large webbed feet and wings to swim down in pursuit of fish. After spotting a fish, gannets will wheel around in the air and dive nearly straight down. Just before entering the water they thrust their wings out straight behind their back in a torpedo-like fashion, allowing them to pierce through the water at incredible speeds. 

Northern gannets have neither been assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) nor listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Their population is considered to be stable in the northwest Atlantic. All breeding colonies in Canada are also protected as provincial reserves or as federal migratory bird sanctuaries.