July 20, 2012


Northern Fulmars (NOFU) are possibly one of the coolest birds ever.  Deceptively gull-like to the non-bird-nerd eye, they are really very different from gulls.  These birds were a recent lifer for me and as always, the deeper I dorked out in the literature about fulmars, the more I was fascinated by the species.  I'll try not to bore you with too many details, BUT - these birds can live over 40 years, don't breed until they're around eight years old, and spend most of their lives at sea...which is not uncommon for seabirds in general, but is still very awesome.

Or how about that their main defense against predators is to eject stomach oil onto them?!  The scientific literature describes this oil as 'well-aimed' and highly-deterrent'.  Over 20 other avian species have been recorded dying because of fulmar oil contamination!  Those species included crows, owls, raptors, gulls, herons, and passerines.  Even the chicks possess this super power.  Don't believe me?  Check out this crazy video (sorry I'm not savvy enough to embed it from the website):


For you landlubbers out there, Northern Fulmars are tube-nosed seabirds.  They have raised structures at the base of the top bill called 'naricorns'.  Who needs unicorns when you can have naricorns?  These fused tubes encase the nostrils and help keep salt secretions out of their eyes.  Special salt glands secrete salt and this allows them to drink seawater and survive.  More awesomeness.

I was delighted to see them in the Gulf of Maine in late June.  This means these guys must have been non-breeders. 

In case you are bored with the whitish NOFU's above, they happen to be polymorphic and come in many shades of gray...

There is really no better way to beat the summer heat than cruising offshore in a big ol' fishing boat looking for birds.  Even if it is near impossible for me to get a decent photograph...

So there you have it - NOFU for you!!!  Say it like the soup Nazi from Seinfeld and it should make up for my less-than-exquisite photos.


  1. Woah! That video is crazy.

    I've learned a lesson about NOFUs I won't soon forget. Thanks Lauren.

  2. Wow, I had no idea these guys were so wild! Death by stomach oil cannot be pleasant. Awesome info- not boring at all!