The Northern Gannet, Britain’s largest seabird, is a spring and summer visitor to Scotland and while we don’t have any colonies on Staffa, the Treshnish Isles or Mull, many fly from colonies on St Kilda and Ailsa Craig to feed in these rich fishing grounds around our islands. Two thirds of the world’s gannets nest and feed in the UK and feeding gannets are a good sign that dolphins in the area and are often spotted together.
These striking, distinctive birds with their white plumage, black tipped wings (their wingspan can reach up to 2 metres) and long, sharp bills are easy to spot as they soar gracefully high above the water looking for fish. Once they spot one, they will dive into the water at speeds of up to 100 km/h when they hit the water and below the surface they will pursue their prey. The reason gannets can dive into the water at such incredible speeds without injury is that they have facial air sacs that help cushion the impact.
(Photo credit: Keith Marshall, Flickr)