Northern Fulmar

Range Map
Fulmarus glacialis

The Northern Fulmar, like many pelagic or ‘sea birds’, is a member of a group called “Tube Noses”, so called because of the structures on their beaks called naricorns.

Northern Fulmars come in both a light form and a dark form (called morphs). Birds of light, dark, and intermediate morphs are present in all subspecies. But the northern populations have a higher percentage of light morph birds, and southern populations have more dark morph birds.

Today’s taxonomists recognise three subspecies; one from Pacific waters and two from the Atlantic:

  • F. g. glacialis is mostly restricted to the Arctic Ocean, where it breeds on Baffin Island, northeastern Greenland, Spitsbergen, Franz Josef Land, and northern Russia.
  • F. g. auduboni breeds in northeastern Canada, western Greenland, Iceland, the United Kingdom, and northwestern Europe.
  • F. g. rodgersii breeds in the northern Pacific on the Commander and Kurile Islands, and in the USA on the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands.

Most of these birds delay breeding until age eight or ten. Once they reach adult breeding age, their life expectancy can be thirty to forty years. Northern Fulmars prefer nest sites along steep island cliff-sides. Often they nest in mixed colonies with other seabirds such as cormorants, murres, and kittiwakes.

The birds I have met were in waters off San Diego and Baja California (Mexico), much further south than the range maps show. Literature describes them as much more common in northern latitudes, often near the continental shelf.

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