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Gannets



Gannets
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 3 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.87

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    airbag-like, all-white, anatomy, binocular, bluish-gray, bluish-white, food-bearing, gannet, gannetry, gray-colored, migratory, rearing, solan, spurt, torpedo-shaped, white-spotted
     content words:    Atlantic Ocean, Great Britain, South Africa, New Zealand, Mediterranean Sea


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Gannets   

1     Gannets are among the world's best plunge divers! Gannets glide fifty to one hundred feet above the sea. They use their binocular vision to search for fish and squid under the water. Once they find their next meal, gannets fold their wings and dive headfirst at an amazing speed of at least 60 miles per hour. As they plunge into the water, they make such a great impact that water may spurt up to 10 feet high!
 
2     How can gannets withstand the force caused by their spectacular dives? Here are five clues. First, gannets have streamlined, torpedo-shaped bodies. Second, gannets can close their pale bluish-gray beaks very tight, so water cannot enter into their mouths. Third, gannets have no nostril holes, so there is no danger of accidentally breathing water. Fourth, gannets have very thick skulls that act as crash helmets. Fifth, gannets have airbag-like air sacs around their necks and shoulders that inflate to protect their bodies during a plunge. With these five features, it is no wonder that gannets are such superb divers.
 
3     There are three species of gannets in the world. Northern gannets, nicknamed "solan geese," are the largest of all gannets. They measure about 35 inches long and weigh around 6.5 pounds. Their wingspan is approximately 6 feet. We can find northern gannets in countries around the northern Atlantic Ocean, such as Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, and Great Britain. The other two gannet species are Cape gannets of South Africa and Australasian (or Australian) gannets of Tasmania and New Zealand. Regardless of where their homes are, all three gannet species look alike. They all have white bodies, wings trimmed in black, and their heads are yellow. Gannets are migratory birds. For example, northern gannets leave their Atlantic homes as temperatures start to drop. They spend their winter months in the Mediterranean Sea.

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