Fulmar

Irish Name: Fulmaire
Scientific name: Fulmarus glacialis
Bird Family: Tubenoses
green
Conservation status

Status

Resident along all Irish coasts.

Identification

A gull-like bird with white underparts and pale grey upperparts. Also occurs in darker morphs ('Blue Fulmars'), which are commoner in the north of its range but not in Ireland. Has a thick neck and large head. Shows a pale primary patch on the upperwing. Does not show gull-like black tips to the primary feathers. Straight, stout bill with hooked tip and tube shaped nostrils on the upper mandible, giving distinctive bill shape if seen at close range. Nostrils used to excrete salt. Flies with very stiff wings, uses long glides at sea, with series of stiff, shallow wing beats. Hangs in the wind in the fierce updrafts generated by steep cliffs, where it can even fly backwards. Cannot stand upright, so needs to launch itself from a high ledge or patters along surface of sea to become airborne.

Voice

Vocal at the breeding colonies, with pairs cackling to one another with a guttural throaty series of "Ga, ga, ga ..." sounds.

Diet

A great variety of food taken including fish, discards from trawlers, crustaceans and whale flesh.

Breeding

A bird that has expanded its breeding range throughout Ireland over the last century, beginning in Mayo in 1911. Comes to land in the day, unlike its relatives the shearwaters and other petrels. Mainly breeds on sea cliffs, but will nest on level ground, on buildings and in burrows and crevasses. Will use both steep rocky cliffs, grassy cliffs and steep slopes above cliffs. Both incubating adults and chick use projectile vomiting as a defensive against predators, the oily stomach contents effectively fouling the plumage of other birds.

Wintering

Winters at sea, but can be seen in Irish waters throughout the year. Attends colonies in the winter sporadically, with breeding cliffs deserted one week and full the next.

Monitored by

Breeding seabirds are monitored through surveys carried out every 15-20 years, the last was Seabird 2000, which was undertaken between 1998 & 2002.