Juvenile Northern Gannet on Lake Ontario

This Northern Gannet is in juvenile plumage. Full juvenile plumage is held until March when the first molt begins. Gannets take several years to acquire adult plumage. Almost all gannets seen on Lake Ontario are inexperienced wandering juveniles that funnel down the St Lawrence River into Lake Ontario. There are January and February records of Northern Gannets on Lake Ontario. Burlington, Ontario on 22 November 2017.

Many of the gannets seen on Lake Ontario tend to circle the west end of the lake before disappearing. Curry (2006) reports the latest Hamilton record on 14 January 1950 by George North. James (ROM 1991) mentions “early February” as the latest occurrence in the province. A few gannets appear to follow the Niagara River to Lake Erie and they are exceptional farther south and west. There are records of grounded gannets apparently trying to escape the Great Lakes.

A minority of gannets go up the Ottawa River from the St Lawrence. A juvenile west of Ottawa was grounded in a farm field with domestic white geese, suggesting that it was attracted by their adult gannet-like appearance (Bruce Di Labio pers. comm.).


Video 1: Northern Gannet and feeding frenzy          Video 2. Gulls chasing Northern Gannet


The local gulls chased the Northern Gannet like they were jaegers. They recognized it as different.


After feeding the gannet rested and preened for up to 40 minutes. 22 November 2017.


The feeding frenzy of hundreds of gulls and Red-breasted Mergansers was spectacular. 22 November 2017


Ron Pittaway and I returned on 24 November to see the juvenile Northern Gannet. It flew back and forth and plunge-dived very close by.