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Part or all of this article has been imported from the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported text may be significantly out of date, and any more recent developments may be completely missing
|Scientific Name:||Morus bassanus|
|French Name:||Fou de Bassan|
|Also known as Solan or Solent Goose. Some of the names derive from the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth.|
The solan or gannet (Morus bassanus) is a noisy and somewhat greedy bird. For this reason, folk who are particularly greedy and bolt down their food are occasionally compared to it.
Apparently as bulky as a goose, and with longer wings and tail, the gannet weighs considerably less. The plumage of the adult is white, tinged on the head and neck with buff, while the outer edge and principal quills of the wings are black, and some bare spaces round the eyes and on the throat reveal a dark blue skin. The first plumage of the young is of a deep brown above, but paler beneath, and each feather is tipped with a triangular white spot. The nest is a shallow depression, either on the ground itself or on a pile of turf, grass and seaweed which last is often conveyed from a great distance. The single egg it contains has a white shell of the same chalky character as a cormorant's. The young are hatched blind and naked, but the slate-coloured skin with which their body is covered is soon clothed with white down, replaced in due time by true feathers of the dark colour already mentioned. The mature plumage is believed not to be attained for some three years. Towards the end of summer the majority of gannets, both old and young, leave the neighbourhood of their breeding-place, and, betaking themselves to the open sea, follow the shoals of herrings and other fishes (the presence of which they are most useful in indicating to fishermen) to a great distance from land. Their prey is almost invariably captured by plunging upon it from a height, and a company of gannets fishing presents a curious and interesting spectacle. Flying in a line, each bird, when it comes over the shoal, closes its wings and dashes perpendicularly into the waves, whence it emerges after a few seconds, and, shaking the water from its feathers, mounts in a wide curve, and orderly takes its place in the rear of the string, to repeat is headlong plunge so soon as it again finds itself above its prey.
Structurally the gannet presents many points worthy of note, such as its dosed nostrils, its aborted tongue, and its toes all connected by a web characters which it possesses in common with most of the other members of the group of birds (Steganopodes) to which it belongs. But more remarkable still is the system of subcutaneous air-cells, some of large size, pervading almost the whole surface of the body, communicating with the lungs, and capable of being inflated or emptied at the will of the bird.
Farther to the northward its settlements are Mykines, the most westerly of the Faeroes, and various small islands off the coast of Iceland. The bird arrives about the end of March or in April and departs in autumn when its young are ready to fly; but even during the breeding- season many of the adults may be seen on their fishing excursions at a vast distance from their home, while at other times of the year their range is greater still, for they not only frequent the North Sea and the English Channel, but stray to the Baltic, and, in winter, extend their flight to Madeira, while the members of the species of American birth traverse the ocean from the shores of Greenland to the Gulf of Mexico.
This article contains text from the article gannet in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica <references/>