Marine Wildlife Encyclopedia
Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis
Often mistaken for a gull, this fulmar is actually a petrel and, like other petrels, has distinctive tubular nostrils. Common throughout northern waters, it is often seen flying over cliffs on its stiff, outstretched wings. Its weak feet make it clumsy on land, and its eyes are dark with a distinct brow ridge. Most northern fulmars in the Atlantic have white bodies and blue-gray upper wings, but in the Pacific many of the birds are much darker. Northern fulmars feed on small animals at or near the sea’s surface, and they gather in large flocks to scavenge around fishing boats. They breed on exposed cliff ledges, with each female laying a single egg directly onto the rock. The incubation period is 52 days—almost twice as long as that in gulls of similar size. Despite its low reproductive rate, the northern fulmar has increased both in range and in numbers in recent years. It is exceptionally long-lived for its size, with ages of over 50 years recorded.