By Mike Busch

Northern Gannets are one of the largest sea birds of the North Atlantic and famous for their dramatic high-speed dives for fish.  With a wingspan up to nearly 6 feet, they are able to contort their bodies into the shape of a missile before hitting the water at speeds up to 60 miles per hour.  Once in the water they appear to manuever just as well as in the air, going as deep as 70 feet to find and eat bait fish.  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 but spend most of their life at sea.  In the winter they hug the coastline all the way down to Florida and the Mexican coast.

They are best seen in late fall and winter by boat, as they are usually a little too far out to catch from the beach.  I have gotten my best shots of them while looking for whales but on Thanksgiving morning there was a flock diving fairly close to shore off Shinnecock Inlet and Tiana Beach and I was able to get some decent shots.  I also included a video of them underwater on page 3.

Dianne Taggart wrote a more detailed piece on the Northern Gannet along with a bunch of great shots from the Long Island Wildlife Photography group here.

More Photos and Video on pages 2 and 3