Fulmars are seabirds that resemble gulls, to which they are not related. In flight, they can be distinguished from gulls by the way they keep their wings straight rather than flexing them. They are strong flyers with a wingspan of 40 to 44 inches (102 to 112 cm). Like other seabirds, they are not so graceful when walking on land, but they don’t need to be.
There are two species, northern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) and southern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialodes). They live in the north and south Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Fulmars nest on cliffs by the ocean where they lay a single egg. It isn’t necessary for them to produce multiple offspring each season since fulmars live for 30 to 40 years.
These birds have an unusual method of self-defense. Their stomachs produce oil which contains wax esters and triglycerides. They can spray this oil out of their mouths onto a predator. If they spray it onto a bird, the oil will gum up the feathers and prevent the bird from flying. The effect is similar to a bird caught in an oil slick from petroleum spillage. This oil has a dual purpose because it can also serve as an energy-rich food for the bird’s chick.
Because the fulmars swallow a large amount of sea water, they have a desalination gland above their nasal passage. It flushes salt out through their nostrils.
We think these birds are another example of God’s amazing design for living things.
© Roland Earnst