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Aves bird of the week Cape Gannet

Cape Gannet

The Cape Gannet - Morus capensis - originally Sula capensis, is a large seabird of the gannet family, Sulidae.


They are easily identified by their large size, black and white plumage. The pale blue bill is pointed with fine serrations near the tip. They have a distinctive golden crown and nape, which gradually becomes white on the neck. Juveniles and Immatures are dark brown with a pale bill.


Usually silent at sea. Rasping arrah arrah is most common call at colonies.


They are fish-eating birds that plunge-dive from considerable height.


The breeding range of Cape Gannet is restricted to Southern Africa in three islands off  Namibia and three islands off South Africa.

Conservation Status – Vulnerable

Its population has decreased by at least 20% in three generations, and is especially in trouble in Namibia. Numbers at the Namibian islands have declined considerably between 1956 and 2000 from 114,600 to 18,200 breeding pairs respectively, an 84% decrease in less than fifty years. This is largely due to the collapse of Sardine (Sardinops sagax) and other fish stock, as well as occasional oil spills which cause hundreds of deaths. This contrasts with the trends at the South African islands where numbers have increased about 4.3 times during the same period, from 34,400 to 148,000 breeding pairs. All breeding colonies of the Cape Gannet are under some form of protection.


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