Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Australasian gannets

with 21 comments

Gannet Colony on Seaside Boulder 3744

Probably the main reason people go to Muriwai on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, aside from the beach itself, is the Australasian gannets (known in Māori as tākapu and in biospeak as Morus serrator) nesting on the rocks there, and that was indeed my little group’s purpose for visiting on February 7th. I took this photograph with a telephoto lens from a path on one of the surrounding bluffs where people are allowed to walk, but the nesting areas themselves are out of bounds. (Just as well, I might add, because even before you can see where the gannets are nesting, the smell downwind is strong and unpleasant.)

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 18, 2015 at 5:11 AM

21 Responses

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  1. Quite the nice abstract paint job on the sides. It is amazing to me that, despite the size of the colonies, individuals can always easily find their mate or nest. No flag on top of the nest’s antenna or anything.

    Steve Gingold

    March 18, 2015 at 5:26 AM

    • That abstract paint job is part of the site’s visual appeal, but some of it contributes to the foul smell I mentioned. What you say about birds being able to find their mates in large colonies has fascinated many people, most of whom don’t have that ability.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 18, 2015 at 5:32 AM

  2. Epic photo, Steve. I like the power in this composition.


    March 18, 2015 at 8:25 AM

    • Thanks for ranking this an epic, Melissa. I originally had a different picture of the rock in this post, but at the last minute I went back and looked at my archive and found this one, with its more powerful composition. It was definitely a change for the better.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 18, 2015 at 9:38 AM

  3. A beautiful picture . Thanks for sharing!

  4. Next time you should come to Napier where there is Cape Kidnappers and its gannet colony. Ok, if you can put up with the smell you can get right up close to them.

    Raewyn's Photos

    March 18, 2015 at 2:54 PM

    • In my New Zealand guidebook I’d read about Cape Kidnappers (though not the gannet colony’s smell) and wanted to visit Napier, but the time ran out and I just didn’t get there. There’s so much more for another visit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 18, 2015 at 3:39 PM

  5. cool !


    March 18, 2015 at 4:32 PM

  6. It’s another New Zealand-Texas connection! Our gannets are Morus bassanus. They nest in colonies on cliff tops in Canada, but they do show up in the northern Gulf. They have the same large wing-span, also plunge-dive like pelicans, and take the same three years to achieve adult coloration. The similarities in appearance are striking.


    March 18, 2015 at 9:31 PM

    • I could easily mistake the one for the other. In a comment on the following post, Steve Gingold mentioned the northern gannet, which he says lives a few hundred miles to his northeast. I encouraged him to make the visit and of course take pictures. I had no idea till now that the northern species shows up as far south as the northern Gulf.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 18, 2015 at 9:38 PM

      • I’ve never seen them south or west of Galveston, but I have seen just a few between here and Florida, mostly off Alabama and Mississippi, and well off the coast.


        March 18, 2015 at 9:45 PM

        • Ah, that probably puts them out of my range, especially if they were well off the coast. I think going to New Zealand was easier.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 18, 2015 at 10:28 PM

  7. That stack of rock is a pure work of natural art. I think I could spend at least a week in the area, patiently exploring all of the possibilities that the myriad vantage points have to offer. It’s unfortunate (or maybe not) that so many visitors just hike up the hill, snap a selfie with the sea in the background, and jog back down to go on their way. The first time I ever went to New Zealand, around 1986, I knew there was real magic there, and when I first visited Muriwai many years later, my conviction was even more deeply reinforced.


    March 19, 2015 at 8:54 PM

    • I wish I’d had more time to give the site its due. There were lots of visitors on the viewing platforms the day I was there and I had to wait for people to leave so I could move up to the front to take pictures. Unfortunately some stayed for quite a while.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2015 at 11:42 PM

      • Sorry to hear that. Some people just get too piggish with a fine opportunity and have little respect for sharing with others. Next time you go, I’ll lend you my cattle prod.


        March 20, 2015 at 6:10 PM

  8. In addition to being stinkers in the literal sense, gannets will never appear in my eye or imagination without the baggage laid on them by Ms. DuMaurier back in the day! Crows, *ha*: despite their prominence in the filmic version, The Birds on the page were overwhelmingly big, spear-beaked *gannets*, in my mind. Thanks for the flapping, screeching, eye-pecking memory! I do love a good tale of horror. 😀


    March 24, 2015 at 6:14 PM

    • I ‘d forgotten that Daphne DuMaurier wrote the story that Hitchcock based The Birds on. I also think of her a being from the late 1800s but I see that her novelette was published in 1955, only a decade before the film. The only horror I experienced from the New Zealand gannets was the stench, but you’re welcome to your “flapping, screeching, eye-pecking memory.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2015 at 6:57 PM

  9. […] This morning’s picture of a gannet colony at Muriwai on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island might have left you wanting a better look at an individual Australasian gannet, Morus serrator, so here’s a closer view of one from that February 7th visit. […]

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