- ORDER: Procellariiformes
- FAMILY: Procellariidae
The gray-and-white Northern Fulmar looks like a gull, but its stiff-winged flight and swift glides, not to mention the nostril tubes on its bill, mark it as a relative of petrels and albatrosses. These stout-bodied seabirds are abundant in the bitterly cold northern Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans, where they feed over deep waters. They use their powerful sense of smell to sniff out fish, squid, and crustaceans. After a short breeding season at colonies on steep cliffs, they return to the open ocean for the rest of the year.More ID Info
Find This Bird
The easiest places to see breeding fulmars are probably in the U.K., Iceland, or Alaska—it's worth a trip to see thousands of these birds flying to and from their cliff nests. The rest of the year you'll likely need to take a trip offshore to see them, such as a ferry ride, a whale-watching trip, or a dedicated pelagic birding trip. They may also be visible from land at select seawatching spots such as Race Point or Andrews Point in Massachusetts.
- Fulmar Boreal (Spanish)
- Fulmar boréal (French)
- Cool Facts
- Before the 1800s, only 1 or 2 Northern Fulmar colonies existed in Iceland, and none off the Faeroes or the British Isles. Now, hundreds of colonies occur across all these islands. It's been suggested that humans helped spur this population explosion, by providing food in the form of whale carcasses and fishing discards.
- When nesting, fulmars generally forage in the vicinity of their colonies but sometimes travel more than 600 miles round trip to procure food for the nestling.
- The Northern Fulmar can dive as deep as 10 feet underwater.
- When threatened, Northern Fulmars have an effective defense: a vile-smelling stomach liquid that the birds can spray out of their mouths for several yards—a good reason to keep your distance from nesting birds!
- Northern Fulmars begin breeding at an exceptionally old age. Most do not breed until they are at least 8 to 10 years old; one study found an individual that started breeding at age 20.
- The Northern Fulmar is one of the longest-lived birds, with adults regularly living into their 30s. In Scotland, several Northern Fulmars banded as adults in 1951 were still breeding in 1990, probably in their 50s.