These oceanic birds seen around Cape waters nest in the islands in the South Atlantic and Antarctic regions. Their feet are positioned toward the rear of their bodies, which inhibits their ability to take off from land but makes them excellent divers. They are powerful fliers, able to stay aloft for hours, and when they rest they float on the water.
The northern gannet is one particularly entertaining seabird. Given its large size—it grows up to 39 inches tall and is the largest of the gannet family—and its distinctive white body and black wing tips, it’s easy to spot off shore. It plunges beak-first from up to 130 feet, feeding on fish and squid. Watching a flock dive-bombing is reminiscent of seeing little kids do perfect cannonballs in a swimming pool—the energy and determination are palpable.
While the osprey might be one of the most common raptors—or birds of prey, which hunt from the air—flying through the Cape skies from March to October, another raptor species, falcons, is spotted less frequently around the Outer Cape in the fall. The fierce peregrine falcon, as well as merlins and American kestrels, are sometimes seen, Prescott says. They feed on smaller birds, including shorebirds and land birds, particularly those that are migrating and may have tired after being blown off course during a storm.