Northern fulmars are long-lived seabirds of the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. Fulmars come in one of two color morphs: a light one, with white head and body and gray wings and tail, and a dark one which is uniformly gray. Though similar in appearance to gulls, fulmars are in fact members of the family, which include petrels and shearwaters.
Northern fulmars are found primarily in subarctic regions of the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. They breed in the Arctic regions of the North Atlantic and in the eastern Siberia and the Alaskan Peninsula. Northern populations usually migrate south when the sea is frozen. Northern fulmars spend most of their life in the open ocean. They breed on rocky cliffs and islands and sometimes may nest on houses along the sea coast.
Northern fulmars are strong fliers and spend much time in the air. They forage by day and night and will dive up to several feet deep to retrieve their prey. They also take prey from the surface while swimming. Northern fulmars are gregarious birds; they live in flocks and always gather in large numbers at abundant food sources. These birds are generally silent when at sea but are very noisy on nesting grounds. They make grunting and chuckling sounds while eating and guttural calls during the breeding season.
Northern fulmars are monogamous and form long term pair bonds that return to the same nest sites year after year. The breeding season usually starts in May and during this time birds perform the mating ritual which consists of the female resting on a ledge and the male landing with his bill open and his head back. He commences to wave his head side to side and up and down while calling. Northern fulmars nest in large colonies. Their nest is a scrape on a grassy ledge or a saucer of vegetation on the ground, lined with softer material. They may also nest on rooftops and buildings. Both the male and the female are involved in the nest building process. The female then lays a single white egg, which is incubated for a period of 50 to 54 days, by both parents. The blind and helpless chick is brooded by parents for 2 weeks and fully fledges after 70 to 75 days. Young Northern fulmars start breeding when they are 6 to 12 years old.
Northern fulmars are not threatened globally. However, these birds are often caught in gill-net fisheries and they also suffer from oil spills and plastic ingestion.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Northern fulmar is around 7,000,000 pairs or 20,000,000 individuals. In Europe, the breeding population consists of 3,380,000-3,500,000 pairs, which equates to 6,760,000-7,000,000 mature individuals. In Russia, there are around 100,000-1 million breeding pairs and around 10,000 individuals on migration. Overall, currently, Northern fulmars are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are increasing.
Due to their feeding habits, Northern fulmars play an important role in their ecosystem as predators and also scavengers in arctic and temperate waters.