Have you ever watched a Cape gannet catch fish? When you do, you will instantly be reminded of the incredible adaptations within the natural world. From crazy heights of 30m, gannets dive down sleek and spear-like, striking the water at speeds of up to 100km per hour, catching fish at far greater depths than most pelagic birds. Several very specific physical attributes allow for these daredevil dives. Their nostrils are not external but located instead inside the gills. Their eyes have remarkable binocular vision that allows them to accurately judge distances. And to cushion the impact of their high speed plunge, they have air sacs in their face and chest under their skin which essentially act like bubble wrap.
They are pure elegance to watch in flight. Very often on our Ocean Odyssey we see them soaring overhead scanning the depths for fish. On land however they have an entertainingly clumsy gait. They are very pretty birds. Their cobalt blue eyes and long beak are clearly defined by pitch black lines and yellowish head, offset by their snow white and black plumage.
They have a ferocious appetite, covering as much as 450km in a day to feed on up to 300g of fish such as sardines and pilchards. Sadly, the Cape Gannet is decreasing in population by 1% per annum and is listed as Vulnerable on the Red Data List and this is directly linked to the heavy exploitation of their food source by insatiable commercial fisheries. A concerted conservation drive is needed to increase their numbers.