Family Gannets, Boobies (Sulidae)

Least Concern

Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)


French: Fou de Bassan German: Basstölpel Spanish: Alcatraz atlántico

Pelecanus Bassanus


, 1758,

Bass Rock, east Scotland


Closely related to M. capensis and M. serrator. In past, all three were treated as conspecific but present species differs in its all-white secondaries (3), all-white tail (3), and slightly paler, generally less intense (less orange-tinged) yellow on head (1). Monotypic.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.

Breeds on both sides of Atlantic Ocean: 48°–66° N on E side, reaching 72° N in Norway; more restricted on W side, 46°–50° N. Winters S down coasts, some reaching equator.

Descriptive notes

87–100 cm; 2300–3600 g; wingspan 165–180 cm. Largest member of family; bill slightly stouter and adult’s head slightly paler than other gannets,... read more


Commonest call a rasping “arrah-arrah”, variable in loudness, generally two calls per second. Other... read more


Marine; wanders mostly over continental shelf. Breeds on offshore islands, very locally also on... read more

Food and feeding

Shoaling pelagic fish, especially herring (Clupea harengus), mackerel (Scomber scombrus), sprat (Sprattus sprattus... read more


Highly seasonal, starting Mar–Apr. Ground-nester, usually in large colonies, with density of c. 1 nest/m²; nest a large,... read more


Well known due to extensive ringing and observations at coastal watchpoints. Breeding colonies... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Most recent estimate placed global population at 950,000 to 1,200,000 individuals. Increased steadily over much of 20th century,... read more

Recommended citation

Carboneras, C., Christie, D.A., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 17 February 2020).