Fulmar

Fulmarus glacialis

45-50cm

Appearance

Related to the shearwaters and petrels, this gull-like bird has tube nostrils, a broad neck and a strong, stout bill. It has a dark blotch around its eye; upperwings and back are a blueish-grey, and the tail, head and underparts are white. Juveniles look similar to adults, though it takes them some time to be rid of their fluffy white down.

Habitat

A bird that is tied to the ocean, often many kilometres from land. Can be found around British and Irish coasts with suitable seaside cliffs.

Character

Quite a social bird, pairs have a greeting ritual when both adults come together at their nest. It nests colonially on seaside cliffs and outcrops; it can often be seen soaring on currents of air or gliding low, almost skimming the water's surface with stiff wings. It is a clumsy diver that mostly picks food from the water's surface. It can projectile regurgitate over an intruder if it feels threatened.

Food

Diet consists of crustaceans, sand eels, and other fish and waste from trawlers; eats carrion too.

Breeding

Usually loyal to the same partner for life, unless this partner dies. Birds return to the same breeding sites each year, and these colonies can range from a few nests to several hundred. One egg is laid, usually on a ledge with no nest vegetation; incubation takes 52 days and is shared by parents. They both feed the hatchling, and one adult remains at the nest for 2 weeks in order to protect it; young flies after 46 days and is then independent.

Population

Birds usually fly out to sea when they've bred, but adults are often back at nesting sites by October. The most current estimates show more than 500 000 pairs in the region.

Observation Tips

It is common and therefore quite simple to observe, especially due to its tendency to not stray too far from nesting sites, even when not in season. Can be viewed almost anywhere around British and Irish coasts, except sheltered inshore waters.

Voice

Utters a range of gurgles, grunts and cackles when in colonies.
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