Thursday, July 18, 2019

Northern Fulmar

We first became acquainted with northern fulmars in Iceland. We saw several nesting on Akurey Island outside Reykjavik Harbor.

As we boated around the icebergs beyond the mouth of Ilulissat Icefjord in Disko Bay, Greenland, the northern fulmars were flying about constantly. 
They come in one of two color morphs: light, with a white head and body and gray wings (and darker gray wingtips) and tail; and dark that is uniformly gray. They look bull-necked compared to gulls and have short stubby bills. It is said that they fly like a tank with stiff wingbeats. 
Bull-necked and short stubby tail. 
A short stubby tail. 
I thought they were gulls, but they are actually members of the same family that includes petrels and shearwaters. 
They have a number of interesting features: (a) They have nasal passages, called naricorns, attached to the upper bill; 
The dark nasal passage on the upper bill is visible.
(b) They produce a stomach oil that can be sprayed out of their mouths as a defense against predators and as an energy rich food source for chicks and adults on long flights; (c) They also have a salt gland situated above the nasal passage that helps desalinate their bodies, necessary because they swallow so much sea water - the saline is excreted from their nose; and (d) They have a well developed sense of smell that allows them to locate fish underwater by smelling the fish oil rising to the surface. 
They can dive up to ten feet deep to retrieve prey, including shrimp, fish, squid and jellyfish. 
The bottom fulmar is just leaving the water with something in its bill. 

1 comment:

  1. Great photos of them flying. I thought they were seagulls, but I can see from your photos how much stouter they are than gulls.