MEPS 391:257-265 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08254

Individual migratory schedules and wintering areas of northern gannets

Ulrike Kubetzki1,2, Stefan Garthe1,*, David Fifield3,4, Bettina Mendel1, Robert W. Furness5

1Research and Technology Centre (FTZ), University of Kiel, Hafentörn 1, 25761 Büsum, Germany
2Leibniz-Institute of Marine Research, IFM-GEOMAR, FB3 Fishery Biology, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
3Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, 6 Bruce St., Mount Pearl, Newfoundland A1N 4T3, Canada
4Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland A1C 5S7, Canada
5Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Individual migratory schedules and wintering areas of northern gannets Morus bassanus were studied over 2 consecutive winters by deploying geolocation data loggers on breeding adults from the Bass Rock, UK. Northern gannets attended the breeding colony on Bass Rock until between 24 September and 16 October (median: 5 October). Afterwards, individual birds engaged in different migratory behaviour. Of the 22 birds tracked until at least December, 18% wintered in the North Sea and the English Channel, 27% in the Bay of Biscay and the Celtic Sea, 9% in the Mediterranean Sea and 45% off West Africa. Individual winter home ranges as measured by the 75% kernel density contours varied between 8100 and 308500 km2 (mean = 134000 km2). Several northern gannets migrated northwards from Bass Rock after leaving the colony for a stay of a few days to a few weeks, independent of whether they migrated to Africa or other southern areas later. Birds wintering off West Africa migrated to their wintering areas mostly within 3 to 5 wk, usually starting between early and late October. Most of these birds stayed off West Africa for a period of about 3 mo, where they remained in a relatively restricted area. Return migration was initiated between the end of January and mid-February, and took about as long as autumn migration. We conclude that individual gannets display very variable migratory behaviours, with discrete winter home ranges, and we infer that the migration habits of gannets may be changing in response to human impacts on marine ecosystems.


KEY WORDS: Seabird · Migration · Winter · Geolocation · Home range · Fisheries


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Cite this article as: Kubetzki U, Garthe S, Fifield D, Mendel B, Furness RW (2009) Individual migratory schedules and wintering areas of northern gannets. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 391:257-265. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08254

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