Wildlife - Tākapu/Australasian gannet

Tākapu / gannet


The Australasian gannet or tākapu is a large white seabird with a 1.8 metre wingspan. While there is no breeding colony in the park they are often seen flying above or in nearby waters.

Historically, Māori made expeditions to the rocky breeding grounds of tākapu, catching the young birds for food and the adults for their bones and plumage.  Gannet’s scientific name is Morus, from an ancient Greek word which means ‘foolish’ because the young birds made no attempt to escape when being collected for food.

Gannet comes from an old English word meaning masculine and brave, presumably because gannets dive from a great height.  Today, the word gannet can describe someone who is a glutton, connected with the birds’ habit of catching fish and swallowing them whole.

The nearest gannet breeding colony is 10kms north at Farewell Spit in Golden Bay.  This colony has around 5,000 breeding pairs but the site is vulnerable to erosion. Project Janszoon and DOC are working together to see if another colony can be encouraged to establish at Separation Point.  There are historic reports gannets did breed there.

As gannets are colonial breeders we need to convince them there is already a colony established and there is no great risk in joining them. So, decoy gannets have been fixed to the site and a speaker system is playing gannet calls.

While gannets have been seen landing at Separation Point they are yet to breed. If a colony does establish it will not only be good for the conservation of this species but the input of marine nutrients will provide specialised habitat for some rare plant species.

Bird calls courtesy of NZ birds online

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