NORTHERN FULMAR (Fulmarus glacialis) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Northern Fulmar is a pelagic bird with two main morphs. In the white morph the head, neck, breast and under parts are white, and the back, wings and tail are grey. Dark morph is grey. Eyes are dark. Bill is creamy with a yellow hooked tip and made of plates where the nostrils occupy a tube (see photo below) at the base of the upper mandible. Legs and webbed feet are pinkish grey. Sexes as well as juveniles are similar. Bird is around 45 cm (18 inches) long.
NAME: ‘Fulmar’ (and Latin genus name ‘Fulmarus’) derives from Old Norse ‘ful’ which means ‘foul’, and ‘mar’, which means ‘gull’. This is in reference to the foul odor of the oil the bird emits as a defense mechanism (see note below on ‘Tubenose species’). Latin species name ‘glacialis’ refers to its high Arctic range. Also called ‘Fulmar’ or ‘Arctic Fulmar’.
HABITAT: Rocky cliffs on small islands in the summer, open seas.
DIET: Fish, squid, crustaceans, jellyfish, some garbage. Dive a few meters (yards) for fish, also follow fishing boats for offal.
BREEDING/NESTING: Starts breeding at 8 to 10 years old, may breed until age 50. Breeds in colonies. Nest is a scrape on the ground. One single white egg is laid, incubated by both parents. Chick fed by both parents. During this period parents are active at night to prevent egg/chick predation.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeds on rocky islands and coasts of high arctic countries around the globe. Lives in open seas in northern waters around the globe or edge of pack ice outside breeding season. Winter visitor to Hawaii. Some vagrants have been reported as far away as New Zealand (see note below on Bird Vagrancy).
Distribution Map:
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, sightings rare in summer or fall.
CONSERVATION: Widespread, population stable or increasing, not at risk.
Tubenose species: Fulmars are part of an order of birds that includes seabirds with a ‘tubenose’ bill. The highly specialized bill is made of plates and the nostrils are inside one of them in the shape of a ‘tube’. The birds can drink seawater, and have glands in their bill to extract the salt from the water. Their nostrils also have a self-defensive feature – when threatened they can spit out a foul-smelling oil from that organ. Fulmars also have a high sense of olfaction and their bill is equipped to detect food sources near the water surface.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Herring Gull (fulmar white morph), Sooty Shearwater (fulmar dark morph)
REFERENCES: (New Zealand Birds Online) Vagrant
Northern Fulmar, Alaska Fish and Wildlife Service (.pdf file)

Northern Fulmar on nest – Shetland, Scotland – June 2013 – photo by rodtuk
Northern fulmar on nest, by rodtuk
Northern Fulmar in flight – Heligoland, Germany-June 2010 – photo by Andreas Trepte
Northern fulmar  by Andreas Trepte
Northern Fulmar head close up, note bill plates – Isle of May, Scotland – June 2008 – photo by Steve Garvie
Northern fulmar head, by Steve Garvie
Northern Fulmar colony – Erris Head, Ireland – June 2010 – photo by Anthony Hickey
Northern fulmar colony, Anthony Hickey
Northern Fulmars in flight – Aleutians, AK – Sept. 2006 – photo by Alan Schmierer
Northern fulmars flying, Alan Schmierer
Northern Fulmar, dark morph – Ny Alesund, Svalbard – Aug. 2010 – photo by Daniele 1357
Northern fulmar, dark morph, Daniele 1357