Northern Gannets: Death-Defying Dive Bombers

Although World War II is long over, bombers still patrol the Atlantic skies. They outmatch anything humans have ever engineered. With unruffled ease, they crash into the sea at breakneck speed, swim to their objective, and then fly away. On a June morning in the North Atlantic, a shoal of herring rises near the surface, unaware of danger. Yet many will not see another day, for high overhead appears a flock of large, white-plumaged birds with splashes of jet black on their wing tips. These are northern gannets. They are hungry, and their chicks are impatiently waiting for food 40 miles (64 km) away on a remote Canadian island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The capabilities of these seafaring dive bombers are unmatched in the animal world.

Every year more than 50,000 pairs of gannets converge on the small island of Bonaventure, located 2 miles (3.5 km) off the coast of Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula, to breed and raise their ravenous young. They literally cover the island, each pair nesting within pecking distance of their neighbors. This species' base of operations extends to other offshore islands and inaccessible cliffs, from Canada's Newfoundland coast to France’s Brittany coast and all the way to Norway.

Northern gannets typically hunt for herring or mackerel in large flocks, sometimes 1,000 birds strong. Their white underparts camouflage the squadrons from their prey below, but the gannets seem to have no problem spotting the fish. Their eyes are positioned right beside the bill, which gives them binocular vision, vitally important in calculating distances and pinpointing their prey.

[Read the rest of the article at Answers in Genesis.]