Photo by Steve Mirick and used with his permission. Photo remains the
property of the photographer.
Arctic Fulmar, or sometimes just
Face on photo by Jim
Wallius shows the tube on the top of the beak that houses
the nostrils. While the Fulmar may look like a gull,
it drinks salt water and is a true Procellaridae. Gulls must
come to land to drink fresh water. The Fulmar comes to land
only to breed.
Breeds in Northern Hemisphere
To locate the breeding
colonies of the Northern Fulmar consider the globe from the perspective of the
North Pole. The distribution of breeding locations in North America according
to Hatch and Nettleship for birds that
disburse in the Atlantic are:
||Number of colonies
|Newfoundland and Labrador
|Arctic Canada includes: Baffin Island, Devon Island
¹ The eastern most breeding colonies on Devon Island
are separated by 3,500 km from the neareast Pacific Colonies.
Northern Fulmars breed off the northern coast of Ireland , Scotland and
Scandanavia. For description see "Wandering Birder- Europe"
Like other seabirds, the Fulmar does not
start breeding until 8-10 years of age and then lays but one egg per year.
Immature birds probably spend the first 3 years at sea and these are the
individuals we are likely to see off the New England coast. Breeding birds
remain in the area of the colonies all winter unless it is ice covered. The
Fulmar is a long lived bird. There is documentation of individuals still
breeding at 40 years of age.
How To See
||Nests on high cliffs near the sea. Sites usually mixed with
other species such as kittiwakes, murres, and cormorants. These birds were
photographed on the Shetland Islands.
Fulmars are occasionally seen on pelagic
birding trips and whale watches from the New England coast. Never numerous,
your chances of seeing one are greatest in late fall and after a strong east
wind. Try taking the Stellwagen Bank Christmas Bird Count in mid-
Omnivorous. Active ship follower and
attends trawlers. Tends to circle the boat for some time so beware overcounting
the same birds.
Obtains food by: dipping, surface sezing, surface-
plunging, pursuit-diving, and scavenging.
The Northern Fulmar color morphs range from almost white to
very dark gray birds. Most birds in the Atlantic are the light morphs and are
about the color of a Herring Gull. In some locations on the Pacific side the
dark forms greatly outnumber the light forms. This was observed in Unalaska on
the Aleutian Islands.
Dark morph Northern
Fulmar with a light morph photographed in the Aleutian Islands on Unalaska by
Emmalee Tarry 2005.
|Light morph individual photographed June 30 on the BBC
pelagic to Nantucket Shoals by Ian Davis. Note the
steep forehead, dark eye and marking on the bill. Seems to be
||At sea look for a bird that flies like the shearwaters to
which it is closely related with plumage that looks more like a gull. Steep
forehead and dark eye give it a distinctive look. On a recent pelagic out
Brielle, NJ which had good numbers of Fulmars and adult Kittiwakes, I was
surprised at the people who were having difficulty separating the two.
Kittiwakes fly with a rapid wingbeat, but often glide on air currents behind
Northern Fulmar photographed in the Shetland Islands by
| Also look for a bird with white spots on both wings. The
spots do not always show up as well as they do in this photo. This bird was
photographed on the 2001 December pelagic out of Brielle. Video photo by
Karl Lukens and used with his
permission. Photo remains the property of the
|Photo by Steve Mirick.