Fulmars Fulmars

Fulmars

The fulmar is known as a mallimack or malli in Orkney dialect. Its common names are the Northern fulmar, fulmar petrel or Arctic fulmar and its proper name is Fulmarus glacialis. Orkney is a paradise for seeing seabirds but don’t get too close to these relatives of the albatross. They repel predators by regurgitating foul oil from their stomachs and can accurately squirt you from three feet to defend their nests. The substance is also used to feed chicks. Fulmar oil was used to light lamps in times past in the Hebridean island of St Kilda and even to pay rent to the laird. Fulmars only arrived in Orkney a century or so ago but there are now 91,000 pairs here.

The fulmar can be seen on cliff ledges across Orkney with Marwick Head, near Birsay and The Noup on Westray being good spots. Half of all the pairs can be found on the cliffs in Hoy and you'll see them if you take the walk to the Old Man. The bird looks gull-like but has tubular nostrils and grey wings which it glides with stiffly and flies with short beats. The head and underparts are white, the back, wings and tail grey. Its span is 45-50cm and wingspan 102-112cm. Pairs are monogamous and return to the same nest site each year. The fulmar feeds on plankton and discarded offal from fishing boats. They only lay one egg but can live for up to 40 years.

Since the 1950s a research project into fulmar breeding has been carried out on the uninhabited Orkney isle of Eynhallow by Aberdeen University. This involves weighing chicks and monitoring numbers.

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Fulmars

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A Fulmar chick after hatchingA Fulmar in flightFulmars on the cliff face in OrkneyTwo Fulmars in flightFour Fulmars resting on the cliffs in OrkneyA lone Fulmar at Scapa Beach, just outside Kirkwall...

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Click to Enlarge A Fulmar chick after hatchingClick to Enlarge A Fulmar in flightClick to Enlarge Fulmars on the cliff face in OrkneyClick to Enlarge Two Fulmars in flightClick to Enlarge Four Fulmars...

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A Fulmar chick after hatchingA Fulmar in flightFulmars on the cliff face in OrkneyTwo Fulmars in flightFour Fulmars resting on the cliffs in OrkneyA lone Fulmar at Scapa Beach, just outside Kirkwall...

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