Quick Facts

Wingspan: 4 feet

Weight: 2 lbs

Population: 4 million individuals

Location: Antarctic & Sub Antarctic Seas

Diet: Krill, crustaceans and fish

Nests: Stone chips, on clifftops

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Description & Characteristics:

Antarctic Fulmars are a southerly species with a circumpolar distribution at sea and are commonly found on pack ice fringes. They breed in large colonies on the islands off the Antarctic Peninsula, the South Orkneys and South Sandwiches, and along the Antarctic coastline. During the winter months, they move north away from the pack ice, commonly reaching as far north as 10° S, but only where they follow cold currents along the western coasts of southern continents. The “Southern” Fulmar has very similar appearance to the Northern Fulmar, although it is slightly smaller than its northern hemisphere counterpart.

Antarctic Fulmars are readily identified by their pale silver-grey plumage, white head and black-tipped flight feathers. Their bills are pink with a black tip and they have pinkish-blue feet and legs. Outer wings have a a distinctive white rectangle. The dark eye is also a distinguishing feature. The sexes are alike and there is no seasonal variation in plumage color.

Antarctic Fulmars are gregarious birds, often travelling, feeding and resting in large flocks or “rafts”. Food is caught by surface-seizing and occasionally by shallow dives. Opportunists, Fulmars will also scavenge for carrion. They are believed to feed nocturnally, rarely following ships, as many other Antarctic bird species do. Fulmar flight, which is similar to petrels, involves gliding and soaring with stiff wings.

Fulmars breed on rock ledges of steep coastal cliffs, often in large and dense colonies. They arrive at their southern colonies and establish sites on open scree or rock ledges in October. Their nests are made of stone chips built into a rough circular shape. Eggs are laid in early December and hatch in mid-January. Only one egg is laid by a pair in a breeding season. Chicks fledge in early March at around 52 days old. Skuas may take some abandoned eggs and chicks, but extreme weather conditions are much more significant causes of egg and chick mortality.

Did you know?

  • It is best to keep well clear of the nests of the Fulmar, which is capable of spitting a foul-smelling, yellowish oil at nest intruders.
  • The oil comes from the bird’s stomach and can be aimed with great accuracy at targets up to 5 feet away.

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