Gannets learn to hunt by following their elders

Issued: Mon, 04 Nov 2019 11:46:00 GMT

Gannets, the largest seabirds in the North Atlantic, can travel hundreds of miles from their homes just to catch food for their chicks. However, with around a million square miles of ocean to choose from, it has always been a mystery how they decide where is best to search for fish.

Now, new research led by the University of Glasgow and published in the Journal of Avian Biology, offers new insights into why these iconic shaped seabirds choose to hunt the way they do.

Scientists recorded thousands of gannets commuting to and from the Bass Rock, in the outer part of the Firth of Forth in Eastern Scotland. The Bass Rock houses the world’s largest northern gannet colony, with an estimated 75,300 breeding pairs calling it home.

Dr Wakefield said: “The ability to tap into this communal wisdom may also go some way to explaining why gannets and other seabirds breed in such huge colonies”

The study, ‘Immature gannets follow adults in commuting flocks providing a potential mechanism for social learning’ is published in the Journal of Avian Biology, The work was funded by the UK Natural Environmental Research Council, the University of Glasgow and the German Academic Exchange Service.

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