Wild Bird Photography by Steve Oakes

Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

Above: Fulmar
Above: Fulmar



Distribution map

Areas marked are approximations only for use as a guide.
They are not indicative of population density

Key: Green=All year; Yellow=Summer, Blue=Winter, Red=Passage Only


Fulmars are resident birds in the UK, although they can also spend long periods out at sea, especially outside the breeding season. They can be found on rocky coasts with cliffs where there are plenty of ledges for nesting. They are rarely, if ever, found inland.

They look a little like gulls and are often referred to as gulls but they are in fact a member of the petrel family. They are mistaken for gulls because of their colouring. The back, upper wings and upper tail are an almost uniform light to mid grey. The underside and head are white. Legs are dark blue-grey. There is also a dark grey/black smudge around each eye. The beak is what makes it stand out from a gull. It is thick and bluish grey with a yellowish tip. It also has very prominent tubular nostrils, which are common in all petrels. The nostrils are part of the birds ingenious design for processing salt water. As they spend most of their life out at sea, they must drink salt water. However, they have their own in-built desalination system and the extracted salt is then ejected violently through the large nostrils. The ejected salt mixture stinks pretty bad and that is how these birds acquired their name, as fulmar is an old English expression meaning 'foul mouth'.

In the north west, you can find them easily at St Bees Head in Cumbria or at Great Orme, Little Orme and South Stack in North Wales. They are not in the least shy so photography can be quite easy once you have found a good spot.

You can see all of my photographs of these birds in the wild by clicking here.

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