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Gannet Sula bassana in flight (

You can literally see a gannet a mile off (and more). Its huge wings and white plumage contrast with the greyest of skies and seas. Scotland holds more breeding gannets than does anywhere else in the North Atlantic.

What to look for

It’s the largest seabird in Europe, not far short of a metre in length and with a wingspan of around two metres. Adult plumage is mostly white, with jet-black outer wing feathers and some yellow on the back of the head. Watch for spectacular plunge dives.

Interesting facts

Gannets have several body features to assist them in power plunges for fish (such as mackerel). These include wings that can be held back at an extreme angle and the avian equivalent of airbags in the chest to soften the blow of high-speed entry to the water.

When and where to see

Gannets range far, so be alert for them even far away from colonies. Scan the inshore most of the year (though numbers are small along North Sea coasts between December and February).


Near and at colonies such as the Bass Rock, Ailsa Craig, St Kilda, Hermaness and Noss.

Remote viewing and webcam

Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick.

For more information see the RSPB's gannet page.