Tuesday 11th May comments: The seabird breeding season is still ongoing and each day brings something different. Yesterday we had the Kittiwakes responding to recent rains allowing them to start nest building and now we have eyes on our Fulmars as the first eggs will be laid within the next week.
Fulmars are part of the Shearwater and Petrel group, which also includes albatrosses. The group can sometimes be referred to as ‘tube noses’ because they have a tubular nostril on top of the bill. The word Fulmar comes from the old English word meaning ‘foul gull’.
Fulmars are very specialist seabirds as they have a salt gland above the nasal passage which helps them excrete salt due to the high amount of ocean water that they take in. They also have a very good defensive mechanise even from a young age which allows chicks to be left unattended without coming to any harm. If anything or anyone gets too close to Fulmars, they excrete a stomach oil which is sprayed out of their mouths which will mat the plumage of avian predators , which can lead to the predators death. Interestingly Fulmars don’t start breeding until they are 6-7 years of age (which is old for any bird species) and will lay a single white egg on bare rock ledges or shallow depressions lined with plant material. However just before egg laying, the entire population disappear (this has been referred to as the honeymoon period) for 4-5 days and it is thought that birds do this to build up fat reserves. Once the egg is laid, they’ll then incubate for 49-53 days after which the young will hatch, usually in early July.
So another seabird about to start their breeding season and we are not far off the full set but having said that, still a few to go….