Gannets dive at Ballina to dine out on seafood from the deep
IT'S hard work getting a meal if you're a gannet.
These birds soar high over the ocean and then suddenly, without warning, plummet at full speed into the water, diving down to depths of 10 metres or more.
Swimming back to the surface, the gannets feed on tiny baitfish, grasping the fish with small, backward-pointing serrations along the edges of their bill.
This spectacle of dive-bombing birds can be seen around the North Coast at the moment, with the Lighthouse Beach lookout at Ballina a popular spot to watch the dramatic diving.
Keith Williams, from Australian Seabird Rescue's Ballina headquarters, said the gannets were amazing birds.
"They go a long way up, then fold their wings back and plunge dive," he said.
"They swim down as deep as they can and swim back up slowly, looking for fish.
"The gannets hang around when there are schools of baitfish. That's why they're here at the moment, because there are plenty of fish around."
And with the clear water, the birds have an even better chance of catching dinner.
Mr Williams said gannets had very strong wing bones, which helped them dive without hurting themselves.
"Their diving puts a lot of stress on their bodies.
"But it is spectacular to watch - it's a nice adjunct to whale watching."
- The birds are mostly white, with a yellow head and dark tips on their major wing feathers.
- They grow to 95cm in length.
- Wingspan is up to 1.6m.
- The young do not reach breeding maturity until about six or seven years old.