GANNET, or Solan Goose. (Peiicanus Bassanus. Linn. Xhis species weighs about seven pounds; the length is three feet two inches. The bill is six inches long, straight almost to the point, where it inclines down ; and the sides are irregularly jagged, that it may hold its prey with more security: about an inch from the base of the upper mandible is a sharp process pointing forward ; it has no nostrils, but in their place a long furrow, that reaches almost to the end of the bill; the whole is of a dirty white, tinged with ash colour. Xhe tongue is very small, and placed low in the mouth; a naked skin of a fine blue surrounds the eyes, which are of a pale yellow and are full of vivacity: this bird is remarkable for the quickness of its sight. Martin tells us that Solan is derived from an Irish word expressive of that quality. From the corner of the mouth is a narrow slip of black bare skin, that extends to the hind part of the head ; beneath the chin is another that, like the pouch of the pelican, is dilatable, and of size sufficient to contain six entire herrings; which in the breeding season it carries at once to its mate or young. Xhe young birds, during the first year differ greatly in colour from the old ones; being of a dusky hue, speckled with numerous triangular white spots ; and at that time resemble in colours the speckled diver. Each bird, if left undisturbed, would only lay one egg in the year, but if that be taken away they will lay another, if that is also taken, then a third, but never more that season. Their egg is white and rather less than that of the common goose; the nest is large, and formed of any thing the bird finds floating on the water, such as grass, sea-plants, shavings, &c. These birds frequent the isle of Ailsa, in the Firth of Clyde; the rocks adjacent to St. Kilda; the Stalks of Souliskerry, near the Orkneys; the Skelig Isles, off the coasts of Kerry, Ireland; and the Bass Isles, in the Firth of Forth. The multitudes that inhabit these places are prodigious, and darken the air by the vastness of the flocks that rise from the nests as you approach the rocks. These birds are well known on many parts of the coasts of England, not, however by the name of solan geese. In Cornwall and Ireland they are called gannets ; by the Welsh gan. We are uncertain whether the gannet breeds in any other parts of Europe besides our own islands: except, as Mr. Ray suspects, the Sula of Brisson (described in Clusius's Exotics, which breeds in Zeroe Isles) be the same bird. In winter the gannet migrates to the southward and appears upon the coast of Portugal.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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