Northern Gannet Release

provided by CROW
sponsored by Kingfisher Real Estate

The ability to witness thousands of northern gannets hunting fish may be one of North America’s greatest wildlife encounters. Adults sport unmistakably large, sharp bills and snowy white plumage with black wingtips and a golden crown. They are ocean-dwelling deep seabirds who spend time on the continental shelf where their main prey species can be found. Much like albatrosses, they are large and mate for life. Usually, they are found in sizable flocks performing swift spectacular dives to capture schools of fish.

Gannets eat almost exclusively fish, especially those that are near the surface in schools. Some choice favorites of the Gannet include herring, mackerel, capelin, smelt, and pollack. They will also go for shrimp and squid. Gannets have a unique way of catching fish from significant heights. Gannets will plunge-dive into the water from over 100 feet in the air at speeds up to 60 miles an hour. Once they break the surface of the water, they can dive up to 72 feet deep using both their wings and webbed feet to swim underwater.

Northern gannets have excellent vision allowing them to detect prey underwater. Their eyes have structural adaptations to help them plunge-dive. This adaptation gives them the ability to see well underwater immediately after striking the surface.

Since the beginning of 2021, CROW has admitted only nine northern gannets. When gannets are admitted they, usually, have washed up and been rescued due to an illness or sickness already present. Unfortunately, due to their ocean-dwelling characteristics and many other factors, they do not normally fair well in rehabilitation environments.

On April 7, a juvenile northern gannet (#21-1480) was admitted from Fort Myers Beach after being found lethargic, not able to fly, and covered in mites. Upon examination, the patient was emaciated and had a treble hook in its right wing. Once the hook was removed, the wound was closed and bandaged. The gannet received supportive medications, antibiotics, and frequent time in the tub. On April 15, the gannet was moved outside to the pelican enclosure for release assessment.

On April 19, a release was coordinated for the northern gannet. Typically, wildlife is released back in the same area where they are found; however, this case was different. Two other northern gannets had been previously admitted to the clinic from Fort Myers Beach with red tide symptoms and, unfortunately, did not survive. Since this juvenile gannet was found on Fort Myers Beach, the rehabilitation staff decided a release in an area with known red tide poisoning was not the best option. With the help of the rescue volunteer and an avian biologist, rehab staff discovered some juvenile colonies of northern gannets down on Keewaydin Island in the Naples area. The gannet was taken on a boat to the island for release which was, overall, a great success.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (4/22-4/30):
There were 103 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 25 common grackles, 11 eastern cottontails, three osprey, a peninsula cooter, two Florida red-bellied cooters, a ruddy turnstone, a marsh rabbit, and a yellow-crowned night heron. Recent Releases include a bald eagle, 17 Virginia opossums, four gopher tortoises, and a chicken turtle. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases!

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!

Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road. All Florida residents receive 10% off admission with proof of residency throughout the month of September!

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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