Fulmars

Fulmar on chick

Fulmar with chick

So another in my little mini series on the birds of the sea/Skokholm, and this time its the turn of the Fulmar.  It looks like a boring old gull but flies with the skill and class of an albatross, so are obviously of a higher class than your scavenging Herring Gull.

On the remoter sea cliffs, and especially on islands such as Skokholm, the Fulmar takes advantage of there being fewer predators and braves the strong winds and rain to perch on cliff ledges for the breeding season.  Here they have a single chick per pair and take it in turns to incubate and go feeding, which they are pretty good at.  The chick is fed so well that it ends up being significantly heavier than the adult and has no chance of flying, so the adults have a simple solution.  They fly off and abandon their young.

The chicks are safe from predators because of their size and the uncanny knack of vomiting in the face of any visitor (truthfully the biggest danger to any biologist doing close up nest checks!) so they just sit out the rest of their time on the nest.  During this time they finish off their flying plumage and lose some weight whilst occasionally practising their wing flaps.  After about a week its all over and a new, slimline chick launches themselves off into the sea winds to go find that long awaited next meal.

After a few years roaming the seas the Fulmar will join the rest of the breeding adults and come back to land and pair up to make a little, or not so little, chick of its own.

Fulmar in flight

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