Flying “Missiles”

The Cape Gannet seems like a normal bird, but like the peregrine falcon, this bird is able to change its body shape in order to hunt its prey. As the Cape Gannet takes a nose dive towards the water, this bird folds its wings behind its body so that it is able to be more aerodynamic when it enters the water.

The Cape Gannet (Morus capensis) is a vagrant bird that hunts fish like sardines. When it hunts, this bird shapes its body by bending its wings behind its body, in the shape of a “missile,” so that it can reduce the force of drag that would normally slow it down. Starting from about 30 meters above the water, when this bird gets the optimal form for diving, it is able to reach speeds of 60mph as well as depths of 40 feet.

Although these birds are expert hunters like the peregrine falcon, when it comes to long term dynamic flying, they fall short to the wandering Albatross.



1)Ropert-Coudert, Y., Grémillet, D., Ryan, P., Kato, A., Naito, Y. and Le Maho, Y. (2004), Between air and water: the plunge dive of the Cape Gannet Morus capensis. Ibis, 146: 281–290. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919x.2003.00250.x

2)Cape Gannet. (2012, September 13). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:06, November 23, 2012, from


gjperry posted on November 24, 2012 at 1:14 am

I like your comparison to the peregrine falcon. I find it really interesting how birds are able to manipulate their shape depending on the task they are trying to accomplish. Also, that was an awesome video.

Patrick Leach posted on November 26, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I have a strong interest in birds that dive into water to catch their prey. Have you ever heard of the kingfisher? The Cape Gannet reminds me of this bird only that the kingfisher is much smaller.