Copyright © 2006-10 Kaipara Branch, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc. All rights reserved

Australasian Gannet

One of the Norwest’s iconic birds is the Australasian Gannet, most often seen at the Takapu Refuge at the southern end of Muriwai Beach (map).  This area is one of only three mainland breeding sites for Gannets in New Zealand.

Here the Gannets breed on the offshore islands and rock stacks, as well as cliff-top areas of Otakamiro Point where visitors can get a close-up view.

These Gannets spend much of their lives at sea, fishing the cool waters of the South Pacific, and the Tasman Sea, around the coast of Australia and New Zealand.  They are a wonderful sight as they circle high above a school of fish, stall, close their wings and dive for a feed.

Gannets also sometimes feed close to shore on schools of young fish, and it’s amazing to watch a large flock working a school into the breaker line, and diving at them in shallow water. The Gannets judge the dive to a split second -  opening their wings to create a shallow scooping entry at the last moment.

In January-February the young are nearly as large as their parents, and ready for their first flight.  This is crunch time for most fledglings.  Flight is instinctive, and once airborne, they head out to sea to feed themselves for the first time.

If they are successful at survival, they will return in a few years to Muriwai and create the next generation. 

Learn more about birding in your area with OSNZ by going to www.osnz.org.nz website and selecting the Auckland Region contact.

Photo: Suzi Phillips