08 December 2010 by Julienne du Toit

Crazy as a Gannet

People on the West Coast joke that it’s easy to commit suicide by bird. All you have to do is strap a fish to your forehead, lie back on a boat and wait for a passing gannet to spot you. These consummate - and not very bright - divers plummet downwards at speeds of up to 100 km/h. You wouldn’t stand a chance.

Incidentally, the Afrikaans name for a gannet is a malgas - roughly translated as a ‘mad goose’.

Watch them through the glass of the hide on Bird Island at Lambert’s Bay, and you’ll have to choke back unseemly snorts of laughter as they waddle up and make googly eyes at their reflections.

From the hide you’ll get to know something of the complicated gannet body language. These crazy geese live in very crowded circumstances. As in a heavily populated city, protocols and traffic rules must be followed. No gannet can get through more than five minutes, let alone a day, without sky-pointing, which is an appeasement that doubles as a greeting.

Any bird that doesn’t lift his beak is mercilessly pecked. Any bird that lands in the wrong place is mercilessly pecked. Any bird that treads close to someone else’s nest is mercilessly pecked.

Heaven knows, it’s not easy being a gannet. No wonder they’re crazy.

Category: Wildlife

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