Northern Gannet
(Morus bassanus)


Picture of bird
© Marcel Gahbauer
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The North American population of Northern Gannet is concentrated in six breeding colonies in eastern Canada. The birds nest on cliffs and atop plateaus, with three colonies along the eastern coast of Newfoundland and three in the Quebec portion of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Severely harvested by humans in the 19th century, the population recovered during the 20th century, except for a short period in the early 1970s when declines related to DDT contamination were observed. Since 2009, the population has levelled off in both the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Newfoundland. Overall though, the population in Canada has increased since the 1970s. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Apparently secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge IncreaseHighAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada200,000 - 300,000 breeding birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

Historically, Northern Gannet populations suffered from large-scale killing by fishermen and later from the effects of DDT (Chapdelaine 1996). DDT contamination resulted in poor hatching success but, after it was banned in the 1970s, the population began to increase once again. Today, breeding colonies are protected as provincial reserves or as federal migratory bird sanctuaries (Mowbray 2002). Gannet populations appear to be negatively affected by current changes in abundance, distribution, and availability of their preferred prey during the breeding season (Rail et al. 2013, Montevecchi et al. 2013). Offshore windfarms are avoided by Northern Gannets, which may have an impact on the species through the loss of habitat (Garthe et al. 2017). Oil spills could also potentially affect the species.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Atlantic Northern ForestsAtlantic Northern Forests, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other
Gulf of St. LawrenceGulf of St. Lawrence, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NL -- Other
Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves , sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NL -- Other