Since the first establishment of northern gannets in Norway at Runde in 1946, the species has shifted its breeding grounds northward along the coast, and today we find well established colonies of northern gannets on islands in the Arctic. A detailed description of the ever-changing distribution of northern gannets along the Norwegian coast is presented in a recent article, where the possible causes of the observed movements are also highlighted.

The population of Northern gannets has increased on both sides of the North Atlantic since the start of the 1900s, and the first observation of gannets breeding in Norway was made on the island of Runde in Møre og Romsdal county in 1946. Since the 1960s, a number of small gannet colonies have been established and later abandoned in North Norway. Regular censuses of apparently occupied nests in these colonies have enabled researchers to follow the development in detail, and the results of the counts have now been published in a recent paper.

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The establishment of northern gannets on Bjørnøya in 2011 signalled a major northward extension of the breeding distribution of the species. Sixteen years earlier, one couple bred for the first time at Kharlov on the Kola Peninsula in Russia, where a colony later grew to 200-250 nests by 2016. These establishments in the Arctic and the relatively swift northward shift in the number of breeding pairs are associated with the northward movement of the gannet’s prey species, such as herring and mackerel, as the Barents Sea is warming.

Contact person: Rob Barrett, Tromsø Museum

Northern gannets breed on sea cliffs, wide ledges on rocks, on grassy slopes or on bare, exposed skerries and islets, like in this photo.
Photo: Rob Barrett