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Was out on the water this weekend and I saw a bird that I have never seen before. It was pretty big, size of a big seagul and was completely white with black tips on the end of its wings. Just wondering if anyone knows what it was. I have been around the water my entire life and have never seen this bird before. Just curious, thanks.
 

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What you saw was almost certainly a Northern Gannet. Do a google image search for "northern gannet" and you'll see plenty. Once you get the hang of what they look like, they're almost impossible to mis-identify - there's not much that looks like them (not much that you'd see while the inshore waters of New Jersey, anyway).
 

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My son and I call them striper birds. They dive bomb the water like a missile. It is awesome to see. I understand they need to be on water to take off- can't take off on land. Correct?
 

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Fishenough, it could have been an albatross, but that's extremely unlikely. One of the first rules in birding is that identifying a bird as an exotic species (like an albatross) instead of a common species (like a gannet), you have to have exceptional proof to back up your claim. It's like finding a coin on the ground: sure, it might be an 1895 buffalo nickel that's worth $5,000, but it's much more likely to be a penny that's worth, well, a penny.

Partnership: I'm not sure whether they can take off on land or not -- my guess is that they can -- but I do know that they are clumsy and awkward on land, and sleek and graceful in water. Their skull is actually reinforced with extra bone -- like a motorcycle helmet -- to protect themselves from the shock of hitting the water when they do one of those 60-foot dive bombs. They're amazing birds.

And they are striper birds. If you see gannets diving, especially in the fall, sidle up and get baits down, because there are fish there.
 

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Gannets are a good indication that there is bait around, not necessarily the gamefish that feed on that bait. Unlike gulls, Gannets are "good fisherman" that do not need the assistance of blues or bass to catch a meal.
 

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What are the birds that you see in the back that skim across the surface with their beaks open? I have always wondered what they were, any ideas?
 

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Originally posted by spooled up:
What are the birds that you see in the back that skim across the surface with their beaks open? I have always wondered what they were, any ideas?
Black skimmers
 

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I don't think that they can take off from land. There legs are placed very far back like a loons and that makes it very difficult to walk. When I was in Florida They were diving next to the boat and they actually fly under water. One actually flew under the boat to get at a small snapper that was being released.
 

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Northern Gannet


Black Skimmer
 
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