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Boobies and Gannets: Sulidae

Behavior And Reproduction, Boobies, Gannets, And People, Northern Gannet (morus Bassanus): Species AccountsPHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS


Boobies and gannets are large seabirds with long, pointed wings, cone-shaped bills, forward-facing eyes, and long necks and tails. Their length is between 25 and 39 inches (64 to 100 centimeters) from their bills to the end of their tails. They are strong fliers and plunge divers—boobies and gannets hit the water headfirst from high in the air in search of fish, and have air sacs under the skin that cushion them when they hit the water.

Boobies and gannets are spread widely over the oceans of the world. Boobies are found mostly in warm tropical or subtropical waters, while gannets usually live in more temperate, cooler regions.

Gannets and boobies live mostly at sea and nest on offshore islands. They usually place their nests on flat ground or on the sides of cliffs. On tropical islands, some also build nests in trees or bushes.

Boobies and gannets feed mostly on schools of fish in ocean waters. Boobies also catch flying fish and squid. They plunge into the water, and they often swallow their prey before swimming back to the surface. By swallowing the fish underwater, they avoid being pestered by gulls and frigatebirds that might try to steal their catch.

Abbott's booby is listed as Critically Endangered, facing an extremely high risk of extinction, dying out. It lives only on Christmas Island, where it lost much of its habitat when nesting trees were cleared. The cape gannet is listed as Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction, because it has only six breeding colonies. The other gannets and boobies are not in danger of extinction, but many would be better off if their island habitats were protected.

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Animal Life ResourceBirds