How Diving Seabirds Hunt Fish
Gannets are large sea birds that can be found in the North Atlantic as well as the coastal seas of Southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The birds fish by diving from a height into the sea and pursuing their prey underwater.
The technique, known as plunge diving, allows birds to use the energy from the momentum of the dive to combat natural buoyancy (caused by air trapped in plumage). Gannets can dive from a height of 30 meters (98.4 ft), reaching speeds of 100km/h (62 mph) as they strike the water.
Gannets have a number of adaptations that allow them to perform such a technique:
– they have no external nostrils and breathe through the opening in their epiglottis (in the mouth) instead;
– they have air sacs in their face and chest under their skin which act like bubble wrapping, cushioning the impact with the water;
– their eyes are positioned far enough forward on their face to give them binocular vision, allowing them to judge distances accurately. [Source]
In the series of amazing photographs below, photographer Alexander Safonov captured the feat over the course of several years while diving in the South African Wild Coast. He says it was one of the most incredible experiences of his life.
I’ve also included a video at the bottom of the post from the BBC that documents a sardine run that sees an array of dolphins, sharks, whales, seals and gannets hunting down the billions of sardines along South Africa’s east coast. It’s one of the greatest gathering of predators anywhere on the planet and definitely worth a watch!
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