Fulmar – Fulmarus glacialis, from the Norse meaning Foul Gull.
The fulmar is a member of the petrel family, also known as tube-bills, and are distantly related to the albatross. They will eat small fish, squid and crustaceans but also carrion, and they are thought to have an incredible sense of smell that enables them to detect rotting flesh and fish oil from up to 15 miles away, a dubious accolade!
The fulmar is designed first and foremost as a seabird, and is extremely well adapted to life on the ocean wave. They have a straight winged, economical, gliding flight, similar to that of the albatross, and it enables them to cover great distances at sea, largely by gliding and expending very little energy. They also have their feet located a long way back on their bodies, where they are ideally placed for taking off from the surface of the water. The downside of this feature is that it makes them very clumsy on land, so they tend to choose very accessible nest sites, making landing marginally easier. This would leave them open to predation; however, the fulmar has overcome this particular problem with a very effective self-defence mechanism in the form of projectile vomiting. They are capable of projecting their stomach contents at any predators foolhardy enough to come within a one metre range. It is a sticky, foul smelling, oily gloop that is virtually impossible to get off fur, feathers, or clothes for that matter. It also contains stomach acid and any predatory bird that finds itself on the receiving end may well be rendered flightless. It won’t be able to clean its feathers and the acidity will also rot them, so it is pretty much game over for the predator.
Another interesting adaptation of the fulmar, that enables it to spend long periods at sea, are the twin nasal tubes on its beak which work as an inbuilt desalination plant enabling them to drink seawater. Of our visitors, they have one of the longest breeding seasons, with eggs being laid in May and youngsters not leaving until early September.
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