Muriwai Gannet Colony
The Muriwai gannet colony is one hour drive from central Auckland.
Back in the 1980s, a colony was established itself north of Auckland at Muriwai Beach. Two headlands were fenced off to protect the nesting gannets that had arrived from nearby Motutara Island.
However, the fences eventually prevented the colony from expanding. Once they were removed, in 1996–97, the population over doubled within four years.
Gannets breed at 24 places around the coast, including many islands. There are three colonies where people attend to see hundreds or thousands of birds up close:
- Cape Kidnappers. This rocky headland is in Hawke’s Bay. Birds started breeding here about 1880.
- Muriwai Beach.
- Farewell Spit. This, the only sea-level colony, started in 1983.
The Austrasian Gannets
Australasian gannets (Morus serrator) are beautiful snowy white sea bird with a golden head and black-tipped wings with a wingspan of two meters and with black central tail feathers and a strong, conical blue-grey beak.
Once fully grown they can grow up to 2.5 kilograms in weight. And once a gannet finds a mate they will mate for life. The gannets can live up to 30 years.
The Australasian gannets can be found in and around Australia and New Zealand coastal waters.
There are around about 1,200 pairs of gannets that nest at the Muriwai gannet colony during the months of August to March every year.
Each pair of gannets lay one pale blue egg which is a size of a large hen’s egg.
Each parent will then take turns looking after the egg and nest while the other parent is looking for food.
Each nest is just centimetres apart from each other. Those that are coming into land have to glide over their squawking raised beaks of their neighbours.
Once the chicks are hatch they are naked, but within a week the chicks are then covered in white fluffy down feathers.
And when the chicks mature they grow juvenile feathers and then begin to exercise their wings in preparation for their first flight.
Once the young gannets have their first flight and are airborne, the birds will then leave the colony and fly across the Tasman sea to Australia. After a few years later the surviving gannets will then return to secure a nesting site.
Questions About The Muriwai Gannet Colony
When is the Best Time To Visit?
The gannets start nesting around August and they will stay till April.
What Kind of Food Do Gannets Eat?
Their diet is mainly small fish such as anchovies and pilchards. The gannets do spectacular dive-bomb and plunge head first into the sea at 145 kilometres an hour.
It’s All Free!
Are There Any Car Parks Near The Muriwai Gannet Colony?
Yes, there is a car park at the Muriwai gannet colony. But please make sure you lock up your vehicle and take any expensive items.
Are There Any Public Toilets?
Yes, there are public toilets once you drive into the car park area the public toilets on the left.
Can I fly My Drone?
No drones are allowed to be flown near the Muriwai gannet colony.
Can I Bring My Dog?
No dogs allowed at the Muri gannet colony.
Are There Any Rubbish Bins?
There are no rubbish bins at the two lookouts, So please take your rubbish with you.
Visiting the Muriwai gannet colony is a once in a lifetime experience. Watching these amazing birds soaring and mastering the updraft of the is very impressive.
When you do visit the Muriwai gannet colony make sure to take a warm jacket as it gets a bit windy and cold at the two lookouts.