Westerly storm at Australasian gannet colony, Muriwai, West Auckland

New Zealand’s location astride the Roaring Forties means that its coast is exposed to regular and often very strong winds throughout the year, particularly more so towards the southern part of the country. A number of sea birds have adapted to the windy marine environment of these latitudes, and indeed many of the larger birds such as albatrosses and petrels depend on such regular winds to help them cover often huge distances at sea in search of food.

Australasian gannets also make use of these winds during storms, skimming over the water’s surface to catch turbulent updrafts off the tops of waves, considerably reducing the need to flap their wings and therefore conserving their own energy. In this way gannets are often able to cover hundreds of kilometres in a single day, seemingly without effort.

This clifftop colony at Muriwai, on Auckland’s boisterous west coast, is frequently lashed by gales from the west and southwest as storm systems move in from the Tasman Sea. Such conditions are of course perfectly suited to these long-ranging fliers, and during the day a nesting colony may be almost half empty as one of each breeding pair travels far out to sea to feed. Calm days, on the other hand, may see the colony full to overflowing, the birds seemingly impatient as they mostly sit and wait for the wind to return.

Westerly storm, Muriwai gannet colony

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