Pelecanus serrator, G. R. Gray, 1843, from Sula australis, Gould 1841 (preoccupied), Tasmania. Monotypic.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
French: Fou austral; German: Australtцlpel; Spanish: Alcatraz Australiano.
33.1–35.8 in (84–91 cm); 5.2 lb (2.35 kg); wingspan 63–66.9 in (160–170 cm). Resembles cape gannet but is slightly smaller, has white outer tail feathers and blue orbital ring is more intensely colored. Juveniles dark, gradually acquiring adult plumage.
Breeds coasts of New Zealand, Tasmania, and Australia. Disperses over those waters and along both coasts of Australia, reaching as far as Tropic of Capricorn.
Strictly marine, occurs mostly over continental shelf. Breeds on offshore islets.
Much as in cape gannet, which it most closely resembles. Compared to northern gannet, less aggressive and not so competitive over nest-sites. Also complex but not so intense sexual
and pair-bonding displays.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Feeds mostly on shoaling pelagic fish, especially pilchard (Sardinops), anchovy (Engraulis), and jack mackerel (Trachurus). Feeds by plunge-diving. Also attends trawlers, where large numbers may concentrate.
Highly seasonal, October through May. Nests in rather small but dense colonies. Builds rough nest of accumulated seaweed and grass, cemented together with excreta. Lays one egg, exceptionally two. Incubation lasts 44 days. Young fledges at 102 days. Does not start breeding until five to six years old.
Not threatened. During twentieth century, population gradually recovered from earlier heavy persecution although some colonies (e.g. Tasmania) continued to decline markedly during second part of the century. Total world population is smallest of all gannets and species still suffers some degree of direct exploitation (eggs and chicks). Sometimes caught accidentally during fishing activities.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Breeding colonies have been traditionally raided for eggs and chicks. Species present in indigenous folklore in New Zealand. Currently some tourist activities are being developed around nesting colonies.
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