Gannet Colony

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Eldey Island (the Fire Island), 9 miles (14 km) south of the Icelandic coast, is a rocky peak 224 feet (70 m) high that has been declared a nature reserve. Each year it attracts one of the world’s largest colonies of northern gannets (Morus bassanus), which includes more than 40,000 birds. They arrive on the island in January and February for nesting, and each couple gives birth to only one offspring. In September the birds depart to spend the winter off the coast of Africa. Like nearly one-fourth of the bird species of the Palearctic region, northern gannets migrate toward Africa covering more than 200 miles (300 km) a day and braving natural perils (opposing winds, predators) as well as threats resulting from human activity (destruction of their habitats, pesticides). In 1844 on Eldey Island the last two specimens of the great auk, a once common species, were exterminated.

That's a lot of birds...

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