Reposting this from 2017 as another Northern Gannet is struggling  on the Backshore.

A second Northern Gannet, in little over a week, has come ashore to die on a Cape Ann Beach. A friend messaged from the Backshore that the Gannet was resting on the rocks and was not walking well.

Heartbreaking to see, the usually majestic Northern Gannet is struggling to survive.

This beautiful Northern Gannet appears to have the same neurological symptoms of the mysterious disease that has caused over one hundred Gannets to wash ashore on Cape Cod beaches. Veterinarians are sending samples of the dead and dying birds to the USDA to see if federal experts can find the cause. A harmful algae bloom (often referred to as Red Tide) is suspect.


The Gannet tried and tried to take flight, but to no avail, wobbling instead and repeatedly tipping over.

The first dying Northern Gannet seen on a Cape Ann beach was shared by Ann Rittenburg. On July 12th, she discovered the bird struggling at Good Harbor Beach. Dianne Corliss, Gloucester’s Animal Control Officer, rescued the seabird. Dianne tried to help, but the Gannet was eventually put to sleep. She warns that the bills of Northern Gannets are extremely powerful. If you come across a Gannet on the beach, do not go near it as they are known to go for the eyes and necks of people. 

What makes the deaths even more troubling is that Northern Gannets are winter migrants through our area, and most months are spent at sea. During the summer season they are typically at their North American breeding grounds, which are six well-established colonies, three in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, and three in the North Atlantic, off the coast of Newfoundland.

My husband Tom and I saw  these magnificent seabirds from the shores of Provincetown last spring. They were feeding along with the Right Whales. The Northern Gannets soared high above the whales and then plunged straight down with a powerful ferocity. It was dramatic and gorgeous to see. I hope the same illness or Red Tide that is killing the Gannets will not affect whales.



  1. We used to see these birds close up in action while hauling back offshore. When the net came up and before we got it on deck, some fish would get out from the wings and cod end and the the gulls and gannets would be all around, the gulls getting stuff on the surface and the gannets diving. I never got tired of seeing these magnificent birds come hurtling down at high speed, tuck their wings in at the last second and leave a trail of bubbles in their path as they dove 15 to 20 feet under, apparently steering with their tail and never missing getting what they were after. I had a good view as I was slightly above the deck running the winch. I hope this sickness is only as temporary as red tide and not a sign of something worse and more permanent.
    Ken Joyce

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A gannet died this morning on Folly Cove beach. I walked past it with my dog, and it was moving it’s head and stretching its wings out, but did not move from it’s spot, even when we were quite close to it. When we returned from our walk, he had laid his head down and apparently died. His body was there all day, and will be there tomorrow if it isnt taken by the tide or by a predator. Lots of foxes and coyotes here.


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