A Fulmar in flight. Is is a stocky, gull-like seabird with a white body, grey back and wings, and yellow and grey beak.

It’s that time of year when our coasts are filling up with seabirds once more, as Puffins, Kittiwakes, Razorbills and more all jostle for position on cliffside colonies. Another bird that's recently returned after spending winter out at sea is the Fulmar. Read on to discover five facts about these fantastic birds.

At first glance you might think Fulmar are part of the gull family, looking almost like a stocky version of a Herring Gull. However this is not the case – they’re actually much more closely related to albatrosses, with their stiff wings and gliding flight pattern.

A Fulmar in flight with its wings spread wide.

Image credit: Jake Stephen

The name ‘Fulmar’ doesn’t help with the confusion – it comes from old Norse and translates to ‘foul gull’. So remember, if it looks like a gull and sounds like a gull, it isn’t necessarily a gull!

But how did they attain such a lovely moniker? It comes from their ability to expel a nasty-smelling stomach oil from their mouth. This is used to deter predators or anyone unfortunate enough to wander a little too close to a Fulmar nest.

Two Fulmar are perched on a cliff. One is looking at the camera with its mouth wide open.

Image credit: Annabel Sharpe

One of their most notable physical features is the ‘nostril’ which sits atop a Fulmar’s beak. This opening contains a special gland which allows them to remove salt from their body. Handy when you spend your life at sea and dive up to 4m below the surface for food.

Sadly, like many seabirds, Fulmar have seen their populations crash in recent years due a combination of climate change, invasive non-native predators and other threats. In 2023, the Seabird Count survey revealed that their UK population has decreased by 35% since 2000.

 A Fulmar and its chick perched on a grassy cliffside.

Image credit: Andy Hay

To learn more about Fulmars, visit our website.


Header image credit: Paul Turner