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Australasian Gannet - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by ornitho26
Muriwai Beach, North Island, New Zealand, 17 November 2005

Alternative name: Australian Gannet

Morus serrator


Photo © by Nora
Williamstown, Melbourne, Australia, 31 January 2007

L. 89cm (35 in)
Wt. 2.3 kg ( 5 lb)
Ws. 6 ft (183 cm)

  • Large
  • Mainly black and white
  • Buff-yellow head
  • Black limited to flight feathers on wing
  • Black central tail feathers
  • Pale bluish-grey bill
  • Slate grey legs and feet
  • Blue-yellow lines on legs and toes


  • Spotted grey-brown above
  • White below with brown streaking
  • Dark bill

It takes 3-5 years to attain adult plumage.

Similar Species

The pattern in the adult tail is distinctive against similar species if seen well.

Photo © by the late Rookery
Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand, 3 April 2009


Breeds around south-eastern Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. One of the best places to view them is at the breeding colony at Muriwai, North Island, New Zealand, where there are observation platforms and interpretive displays.

In non-breeding season spreads further west and north along Australias coast, but some birds will be found at the colony at any time of the year.


This is a monotypic species[1].


Mostly stay in coastal waters year-round.



Australian Gannet often dives from quite high up, plunging into the water head first, and often does so in flocks that go for schools of fish.


In direct flight, they often travel in lines with alternating glides and easy wingbeats. Often will rest on the water if not too rough.


Breeds on small islands, but is trying to establish a mainland colony in Australia (Pizzey and Knight, 1997).


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Carboneras, C., Christie, D.A., Jutglar, F., Bonan, A. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2017). Australasian Gannet (Morus serrator). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/52619 on 29 March 2017).
  3. Hackett, S.J, Kimball, R.T., Reddy, S., Bowie, R.C.K., Braun, E.L., Braun, M.J., Chojnowski, J.L., Cox, W.A., Han, K., Harshman, J., Huddleston, C.J., Marks, B.D., Miglia, K.J., Moore, W.S., Sheldon, F.H., Steadman, D.W., Witt, C.C., and Yuri, T. 2008. A phylogenomic study of birds reveals their evolutionary history. Science. 320(5884):1763-1768.
  4. Ismar, S.M.H. 2013. Australasian gannet. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. http://www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz
  5. Machovsky-Capuska, G. E., Howland, H. C., Raubenheimer, D., Vaughn-Hirshorn, R., Würsig, B., Hauber, M. E., & Katzir, G. (2012). Visual accommodation and active pursuit of prey underwater in a plunge-diving bird: the Australasian gannet. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 279(1745), 4118ñ4125. http://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.1519
  6. Marchant, S.; Higgins, P.J. (eds.), 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds. Ratites to Ducks, vol. 1. Melbourne, Oxford University Press.
  7. Arthur Grosset's Birds

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