The Cape Gannet is one of the impressive figures that you will be able to discover in the Grand Large experience.

Cape Gannet Morus capensis

Identity card

Cape Gannet

Scientific name:
Morus capensis
Year of description:
Lichtenstein, 1823
IUCN Status:

Not Evaluated


Species endemic to Southern Africa, which breeds in South Africa and Namibia.


Coastal waters and offshore, usually within 120 km of land.


90 cm, wingspan 160 to 175 cm.


Fish-eaters, mainly sardines and anchovies.

Cape Gannet Morus capensis

This seabird can travel up to 450 km in a day in search of food.

Underwater, the Cape Gannet takes on a completely different form. It becomes a submarine with its webbed fingers that it uses to propel itself forwards and its wings that become fins. It uses its sharp beak to capture its prey, mainly sardines. This seabird takes advantage of the manna of the sardine run, when billions of sardines gather off the coast of South Africa. It is a "torpedo of the sky" that can dive into the ocean to capture its prey at speeds of up to 100 km/h.

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Augmented-reality experience

The Cape Gannet is one of the impressive figures that you will be able to discover in the Grand Large experience.

Where is the animal to be found?

This strictly marine species breeds on small flat or gently sloping islands off South Africa. It is spread across 6 islands. Most of the birds stay within 500 km of their breeding site. The Cape Gannet lives off the coast of Africa, between the Mozambique Channel and the Gulf of Guinea.

How can it be recognised?

  • The Cape Gannet measures between 84 and 94 cm. It is slender with a pale-yellow head and a black outline around the eyes.
  • The body of adult birds is white with a black tail and black wing tips.
  • Young birds have dark brown feathers and gradually develop more adult feathers after one year.
  • Its call in the colony sounds like a rattle, whereas it is silent at sea.

What is distinctive about it?

The Cape Gannet population is made up of 80,000 to 100,000 pairs that breed between September and April. A single egg is incubated for one and a half months and yields a hatchling that leaves the nest after 3 months.

It feeds mainly on shoaling pelagic fish such as the anchovy Engraulis capensis, the sardine Sardinops sagax or the saury Scomberesox saurus, as well as on waste from fishing boats, including demersal fish. Its diet follows the fluctuations in abundance of these species in South Africa.

Threat and protective measure

  • The population has been threatened by the disturbance caused by guano mining (Cape penguins have also been threatened by the same problem).
  • Overfishing of sardines and the eastward relocation of epipelagic fish populations, which form the basis of the Cape Gannet's diet, are threats to its survival. As such, the lack of food has an impact on the physical condition of adults and the growth rate of chicks.
  • The Cape fur seal Arctocepalus pusillus is a predator that attacks juveniles in colonies. The kelp gull Larus dominicanus and the great white pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus attack chicks.
  • Storms and rising sea levels threaten their habitat and colonies.

Where can I find it at Nausicaá?


le fou du cap Morus capensis

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