With its 1.8 m wing-span, the Australasian gannet is a conspicuous, predominantly white seabird that is common in New Zealand coastal waters. They can be observed feeding solitarily or in large congregations, especially near the larger colonies. Australasian gannets breed in dense colonies on coastal islands and on cliffs and beaches of some headlands of the New Zealand mainland; the breeding distribution also encompasses south-east Australia and Tasmania.


The Australasian gannet is a large, mostly coastal seabird with predominantly white plumage, long, pointed wings, a long neck and slender body shape. The trailing edges of its wings and a varying proportion of its central tail feathers are black. The wedge-shaped bill is bluish-grey, with a lining of black; the skin surrounding the eye is intensely blue. The head plumage is buff-yellow, which extends down the neck. The sexes cannot be reliably distinguished in the field. Juveniles have mottled dark brown and white plumage, and are separable from immatures, which gradually acquire more white over several moults, before acquiring full adult plumage when about 3 years old.

Voice: a distinctive ‘urrah urrah’ to announce landing, during territorial indication at the nest site, and during mutual bill fencing and bowing with the mate. Also an attenuated ‘oo-ah’ to indicate take-off. Both sexes’ calls are identical, with some locational and marked individual variation.

Similar species: the closely related Cape gannet is similar in size and appearance, and has occurred in New Zealand as a vagrant. It differs in having a longer black gular stripe extending from the chin down the throat, all its tail feathers are dark, and it has a slower, lower frequency landing call. The masked booby (which breeds on the Kermadec Islands, and occasionally strays to water off the northern North Island) is smaller, and has a yellow bill and white head.