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A photo of a Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)
Northern Fulmar

Northern Fulmar

Fulmarus glacialis

The Northern Fulmar, or Fulmarus glacialis, is a robust seabird of the high subarctic seas. It is a member of the Procellariidae family, which includes petrels and shearwaters. This species exhibits two color morphs: the light morph, with a white head and body complemented by gray wings and tail, and the dark morph, which is uniformly gray. The Northern Fulmar has a wingspan of 102 to 112 cm and measures about 46 cm in length. It is characterized by a pale yellow, thick bill and bluish legs.

Identification Tips

When observing the Northern Fulmar, look for its gray and white plumage, with the light morph being predominantly white with gray accents and the dark morph being uniformly gray. The bird's bill is pale yellow and stout, and its legs are a bluish hue. In flight, the Northern Fulmar exhibits a stiff wing action, distinct from the more fluid motion of gulls. It appears bull-necked and has a short, stubby bill.


The Northern Fulmar is found primarily in subarctic regions of the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. It nests on grassy ledges or on the ground, where it constructs a scrape or a saucer of vegetation lined with softer materials. In recent times, it has adapted to nesting on rooftops and buildings.


This species is abundant across the North Atlantic and North Pacific, with a breeding range extending from the high Arctic regions to the low Arctic and boreal regions. It has been sighted as far south as New Zealand.


The Northern Fulmar is a strong flier, though its walking ability is limited. It is monogamous and forms long-term pair bonds, often returning to the same nest site annually. The bird starts breeding at six to twelve years old and is involved in nocturnal activities during the breeding season.

Song & Calls

The Northern Fulmar produces a variety of sounds, including grunting and chuckling while feeding, and guttural calls during the breeding season.


Breeding begins in May, with both sexes participating in nest building. The Northern Fulmar lays a single white egg, which is incubated for 50 to 54 days. The altricial chick is brooded for two weeks and fully fledges after 70 to 75 days.

Similar Species

While similar in appearance to gulls, the Northern Fulmar is distinguished by its stouter build, shorter bill, and different flight pattern.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Northern Fulmar includes shrimp, fish, squid, plankton, jellyfish, carrion, and refuse. It is capable of diving several feet deep to capture fish.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the Northern Fulmar as Least Concern, with an estimated 15,000,000 to 30,000,000 mature individuals. The population is increasing, particularly in the British Isles, due to the availability of fish offal from commercial fleets.

Anthropogenic impact

The Northern Fulmar is an indicator species for marine debris. Studies have shown a high percentage of these birds contain microplastics in their gastrointestinal tracts, which may have implications for marine ecosystems and the bird's own health.

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Northern Fulmar Fun Facts

Did you know?
Northern Fulmars spray foul smelling 'sick' from their mouths in defence which mats the plumage of predators.
Did you know?
Northern Fulmars don't normally breed until they are 8 to 10 years; with one being recorded not to have bred until the age of 20.

Northern Fulmars on Birda


More Petrels, Shearwaters, Diving Petrels

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