Of the large gannets that are found on this Island of Hispaniola and in all the other islands and coasts of the Mainland.
Translated by Yuming Ren ’21
I have said and written about some different types of birds that fall under the name of gannets, and some of these can be found in the coasts of Spain; but the ones I will now discuss I have not seen nor do I believe they exist there, except in these parts, nor have I heard that they exist in any other parts. These gannets, which are the size of large geese, are all brownish-gray, and their primary and secondary wing feathers are black. They have webbed feet like ducks, but theirs are different: they have a spur in the heel, and from there the webbing of the foot continues to the other toes. So their feet are much bigger than they would be without that, or at least bigger than those of geese. Their beak is as long as two spans, and, along with the head, it is as wide as or wider than a man’s hand, and from there it narrows to a point at the end; but at the end, where it is narrower, it is still wider than a thumb, and from there it turns slightly downward like a fingernail. The entire upper part of the beak is hard, and the bottom mandible opens very wide and makes a pouch that goes to its chest; and because it has a large neck, I have sometimes seen it fit a man’s tunic in the pouch, and sometimes a cloak, and even two to three doublets and shoes and half a dozen caps. Their chest plumage is white, and when they fly they carry the neck tucked in and the beak closed, in a manner that makes it seem like they don’t have a neck. Lastly, when this bird is on land with its neck extended, it looks a lot like a large bird I saw in Flanders, in Brussels, in the palace of the Emperor King, our lord, in the year of 1516; I remember it was called hayna, and one day, when His Majesty was eating in the great room, they brought that bird before his Royal presence with a cauldron of water filled with live fish, and it ate them whole, just as these gannets that I mentioned do with the fish that they take. That bird I believe was of the sea and, save for the pouch that I mentioned, its feet and everything else were like the gannets of these parts; but that bird was bigger and had a more beautiful plumage and a bigger beak, though its beak did not open as wide (because, as I said, it did not have a pouch). When these gannets fly, they climb high in the air and have very good vision, and they dive into the water with their wings folded at the sides, curled up in a ball, and because of its large size it makes a big splash, and it takes the fish and sits on the water and swallows it. It then takes off again and climbs high, doing the same thing again and again; it fishes this way along the coasts and estuaries. And every day in this city’s river many of them fish together near the riverbank; so close that a few days ago one of the squires I have under my guard in this fortress of Santo Domingo, a good crossbow man, shot one of these gannets that was sitting on a rock at the foot of the fortress from inside this house, puncturing one of its wings. And in my presence my servants put a tunic belonging to one of my pages into its pouch, with full skirting and wide sleeves; and it was not even one of the bigger, older gannets. It is well known here that a cape, if it is a little threadbare, will fit into the pouch of these birds. And thus when they kill them, they sometimes find them in their bellies; and when they are wounded they flail about and throw up the fish they’ve eaten, and these are sometimes so many that two or three men would be able to eat their fill. Sometimes the Christians have eaten these gannets when in need, but they don’t eat them as a good delicacy because they taste of fish and smell much of seafood.