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Fulmar (Northern Fulmar)

Fulmarus glacialis


Distribution Britain 550 (+7.7%) Ireland 159 (+2.6%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 539,000 Ireland 31,000
European status: 2,800,000 (20% in Britain and Ireland =2)
British population trend: still going up 3% or 4% p.a.
How likely are you to record it? 46 squares (1.0%) Ranked 116= [84=]

The history of these gull-like tube-noses, over the last 100 years, is quite amazing and very well documented. At the turn of the century some 20,000 pairs bred on St Kilda and had been there for centuries. Other sites were colonised from Foula in 1878 followed by the isolated islands of the Outer Hebrides, Shetland, Orkney and even the mainland at Clo Mor in Sutherland. These colonists are thought to have originated from the Icelandic population and not St Kilda — where they were an important resource for the human population. The total outside St Kilda breeding in 1900 was in the low 100s and probably not as many as 500! Ireland was first colonised in Mayo in 1911, England (Yorkshire) in 1922 and Wales (Dyfed) in 1931. The current estimate for breeding pairs is 580,000 including 63,000 on the St Kilda group! We may confidently expect the figure to be higher for the current survey, Seabird 2000, since the population growth of at least 3-4% p.a. seems to be continuing.

These birds live seriously long lives and the oldest British ringing recovery is from Orkney at almost 41 years as a breeding bird. A few of the St Kilda birds may be over 100 years old! The huge increases are clearly powered by better survival of the birds at sea where they are able to, and do, exploit the discards from the fishing industry. However a genotype favouring expansion may also have appeared within the Icelandic population in the early nineteenth century. These birds have a very wide range of nest sites and nesting territories are not going to be limiting to the population. Further filling in of the lengths of coastline where there are possible nesting sites seems inevitable. Prospects very rosy.

The following Bird On! sketch is available:


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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead

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