Gannets Abandoning Chicks at Cape St. Mary’s Seabird Colony


Cape St. Mary’s, NL (August 27, 2014) Many Northern Gannets have abandoned their chicks at the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve due to rising sea surface temperatures.


Provincial naturalists, Kyran Power and Chris Mooney were surprised to see  so many gannet chicks unattended by their parents. Gannets virtually never leave their chicks unattendedas  chicks vulnerable to predators including eagles, ravens and gulls.


“About 50% of the surviving chicks at the nest are without parents” said Bill Montevecchi, seabird biologist from Memorial University. He says that the adults are unable to find food due to rising sea surface temperatures (SST) in the area. The high SST may cause the mackerel, Atlantic saury and squid, their primary prey in late summer to move to northerly colder water or to move deeper in the water, outside the foraging depths of the gannets.


“The parents are not regurgitating food for their chicks and fishermen are reporting birds diving extremely close to boats for discarded fish and fish guts” said Montevecchi who recently returned from investigating the desertion. This unusual behaviour indicates that the gannets are desperate to find food.


This extreme event is reminiscent of the mass abandonment by the gannets in 2012 when there were similarly high sea surface temperatures. Also as in 2012, gannets on Bonaventure Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are also experiencing food shortage and abandoning chicks. In 2012, flocks of gannets were observed far north of any gannet colonies where SST was lower.

Dr. Stefan Garthe [University of Kiel, Germany], who currently working on Bonaventure Island has tracked extraordinarily long foraging trips by the gannets up to many hundreds of km from the colony. Such trips are essentially survival trips for the adults and will provide little food for chicks.


As in 2012, the Northern gannets’ breeding success in eastern Canada is expected to be poor. In light of the fact that gannets were the third most oiled seabird in the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, it is essential to monitor and attempt to understand how the ongoing ocean climate changes are affecting them and us as well.


For more information, contact

Bill Montevecchi, Ph.D.

Departments of Psychology, Biology and Ocean Sciences

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St. John’s, NL, Canada

A1B 3X9


Phone: 709.693.5305 [cell], 709.864.7673 [office], 709.895.2901 [home]


Gannets abandon chicks at Cape St. Mary’s…again

Yet again parental Northern Gannets are abandoning their chicks at Cape St. Mary’s – an event very reminiscent of the 2012 abandonment with almost the same timing. Like 2012, there has been a very rapid rise in sea surface temperatures (SST) around the colony (see figure below). The warm waters may be forcing gannets to head north to find prey in cooler waters [see Montevecchi et al. 2013 (Osprey 44 (2): 14-19) for more info on the 2012 event - investigations are ongoing for this years event].



Nature Canada’s 75th Anniversary Photo Contest

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The weather is great, gardens are blooming, and the hiking paths are dry. Hopefully you have some exciting outdoor adventures planned for the next few months. Whatever you envision doing, make sure you take along your sunscreen, hat, and camera to capture the moment!Since we can’t explore the great outdoors with you, we would love to view your pictures! When you come inside for a break and a quick snack, why not share your best nature photos with us! To celebrate our upcoming 75th anniversary in September 2014, we are launching a nature photography contest designed to get more Canadians outdoors connecting with nature across the summer months. It’s a simple way for you, your family or your friends to explore nature whether nearby in your NatureHood, at your cottage or during your summer vacation. It is our hope that by spending time in nature you will explore and adore our natural heritage and all that our environment has to offer us.We have some pretty prestigious nature-loving judges who will make the final decision when it comes time to choose the winners. Among them are

- Micheal Tayler, Canadian Olympian in canoe and kayak slalom
- Micheal Runtz, Ottawa-based photographer and nature enthusiast
- Les Stroud, better known as TV’s “Survivorman”

Yes, that’s right. Survivorman himself will give his opinion on the best photos entered into out contest.

In addition to these amazing judges, our constantly growing list of prizes is pretty outstanding as well. These include a Park Pass for unlimited access to our national parks and a 3 day parkhorse expedition trip for 2 generously donated by Copper Cayuse Outfitters. Check out all the details and more at

Get outside, get active, and take some pictures while you’re at it! For more information or answers to any questions, please contact us at or phone us at 1-800-267-4088 ext. 229.

Yours for nature,

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Stephen Hazell
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Nature Canada
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