Friday, January 14, 2011

Northern Fulmar

The Northern Fulmar is another tube-nosed seabird that I added to my list off the Washington coast in 2001. The tubular nostrils are present in many seabirds that drink salt water.  These structures function for salt excretion (Handbook of Bird Biology).

Fulmars are abundant over the North Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  Fulmars in the Pacific Ocean are usually dark, but in the Atlantic they come in white and dark phases and everything in between.  Nobody knows the function of these color phases.  The phases mate indiscriminately. 

Fulmars are reproductively odd.  They live over 40 years, and often do not mate for the first time until they are at least eight years old.  Pairs only produce one egg per year.  Nevertheless, Fulmar numbers in the North Atlantic have spectacularly increased during the last 250 years.

Fulmars are nocturnal foragers, consuming a wide variety of sea life.  Like the albatross, they have an acute sense of smell.  On my pelagic trip off Westport, Washington, only one cup of cod liver oil off the side of the boat attracted a hoard of fulmars--even in daytime.  Much of the information in this post is from Hatch and Nettleship (1998).

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