Caught by the River

A Bird A Day: Northern Fulmar

13th April 2021

Northern Fulmar
Fulmarus glacialis

This abundant bird nests on islands and cliffs across northern seas, especially the Atlantic and Arctic Ocean; local north Pacific Ocean.

Here’s a claim to fame – the fulmar is ‘celebrated’ for its vomiting habit. If the adults or young are threatened on the nest, they expel a foul-smelling, warm, yellowish goo that is unerringly aimed at the intruder. The birds tend to shoot first rather than negotiating, which means that entirely innocent researchers are regularly covered in a potion that can remain revolting for literally years afterwards.

This hasn’t always deterred the North Atlantic islanders, for example those on the Faeroes, from harvesting adult fulmars and their eggs. They still take about 100,000 annually, even for a bird that is decidedly an acquired taste.


Extracted from ‘A Bird A Day’ by Dominic Couzens, with illustrations by JJ Audubon. Out now, published by Batsford. You can order a copy (£20.00) here.