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Takapu - Australasian Gannet - Morus serrator | by Steve Attwood
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Takapu - Australasian Gannet - Morus serrator

A large seabird of the gannet family Sulidae. M. serrator breed in New Zealand and Australia. In recent years M.capensis (Southern Africa) has been recorded in increasing numbers in Australasia and has been interbreeding with M.serrator.

Adults are mostly white, with black flight feathers at the wingtips and lining the trailing edge of the wing. The central tail feathers are also black. The head is yellow, with a pale blue-grey bill edged in black, and blue-rimmed eyes. Young birds have mottled plumage in their first year, dark above and light below. The head is an intermediate mottled grey, with a dark bill. The birds gradually acquire more white in subsequent seasons until they reach maturity after five years. Birds range freely throughout NZ waters and Australasia.

Their breeding habitat is on islands off Victoria, Tasmania and New Zealand. They normally nest in large colonies on coastal islands. A large exception is the protected colony on the mainland at Cape Kidnappers NZ (5000 pairs). There are also NZ mainland colonies at Muriwai and Farewell Spit.

Gannet pairs may remain together over several seasons. They perform elaborate greeting rituals at the nest, stretching their bills and necks skywards and gently tapping bills together. The adults mainly stay close to colonies, whilst the younger birds disperse.

These birds are plunge divers and spectacular fishers, plunging into the ocean at high speed. They mainly eat squid and forage fish that school near the surface.

Numbers of Australasian Gannet have been increasing since 1950, thanks to their isolated breeding sites and strict protection on mainland NZ colonies.

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Taken on November 8, 2011