This odd-looking little fellow is probably familiar to those who go down to the sea in ships, but landlubbers will most likely not recognize it. It is a Northern Gannet that mostly likely got beat up by Hurricane Jose and got stranded at the beach on Goulart Memorial Drive in Fairhaven where it just plunked down and didn’t move. Some beach-goers found it early in the afternoon on Monday, 9/25, and contacted Mass. Wildlife, which got it to Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable (CWC).
According to Zak Mertz, Executive Director of CWC, the storm had a very strong inward current, causing the weaker birds to get wind battered and exhausted. Northern Gannets are not designed for land, having powerful webbed feet that are great for the water. Mr. Mertz said the center received more than 30 gannets this weekend. Most of them got strong enough to be released and were taken at least a mile out to sea. The Northern Gannet is one of the largest seabirds in the North Atlantic, with a wingspan of almost six feet. The birds live their entire lives offshore, nesting on high cliffs and ledges of islands. They dive in a spectacular fashion from as high as 130 feet in the air, and down to 72 feet in the ocean to catch fish. They can fly as fast as 40 miles per hour. This weekend’s batch of birds is most likely not related to a June incident when a lot of gannet deaths were caused by a cyanotoxin from algae blooms. Mr. Mertz said the center sent off samples, though, to be sure.
These birds, he said, “Were not lethargic, they were mostly just beat up by the storm. Most of these guys are in good spirits, eating on their own, swimming.”
As for our little guy here, he was not so lucky. The bird had too much damage to its feet and had to be euthanized. Mr. Mertz said there was no way it ever would have been able to swim again.
If you see a sick or injured bird, do not touch it or try to feed it, call the Animal Control Officer: 508-979-4028 in Fairhaven; 508-998-9040 in Acushnet; or call the Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, 508-362-0111. Visit http://capewildlifecenter.com/ Photos by Beth David.
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