Have you ever wondered how Gannets manage to dive into the water at such incredible speeds and yet seem to survive without ill effects? If we hit the water at 60 miles an hour it would hurt! We’d be bruised and battered and certainly not want to attempt it again, at least not unless we were Tom Daley. Gannets survive and thrive because they have inbuilt airbags in their chest which cushion the impact. These airbags are linked to their lungs and have the effect of wrapping the bird in bubblewrap before it hits the water. What a brilliant safety feature.
Gannets also don’t have any nostrils; at least not on the outside, like most other birds do. Their nostrils are inside their mouths. Yes, I know. Try not to think about it. It made me come over all queasy.
Most birds also don’t have any eyelids, although they do have a delicate nictitating membrane. Imagine diving into water head first with your eyes open. It’s enough to make your eyes bulge just thinking about it. Gannets have a loose set of eyelids, unlike most other birds, to protect their eyeballs on impact.
From this angle this Gannet looks like a Blue Footed Boobie. That’s because they are closely related. You can also see how fabulously adapted the eyes are, facing forward with perfect binocular vision so they can find the fish and pitch their dive perfectly with proper judgement of the distance.
The wind tonight means they’re out in force at eye-level at Noup Head. What an amazing bird. I’m glad I’m not a fish.