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43-52 centimeters
wingspan: 101-117 centimeters


grey and white with a yellow bill

life span:

44 years


small fish (lesser sandeel, sprat), scraps from fishing vessels, cuttlefish, jellyfish fleas, shrimp


mankind, via marine litter and oil spills


nests on rocky cliffs


maturity: 9 years
1 egg per year
nests on rocky cliffs

special nature:

spits a stinking oil at attackers

  • Dut: Noordse Stormvogel (mallemok, vuilaard (B))
  • Eng: Fulmar
  • Fren: Pétrel Fulmar
  • Ger: Eissturmvogel
  • Ital: Fulmaro
  • Lat: Fulmarus glacialis
  • Dan: Mallemuk
  • Nor: Havhest
  • Frisian: Mallemok
Fulmar, Jan Andries van Franeker


Fulmars can be seen flying over the North Sea the entire year. However you are only likely to see them at sea or in their breeding area off the northern coast of Northern England, Scotland or Helgoland. If they end up on a Dutch beach then they probably ran into a storm or are victims of an oil spill or marine litter. Fulmars have a strong beak with a sharp arched point, which allows them to tear off pieces of their prey. They eat just about anything found in the upper sea surface, including plastic.

  • Stinking spitters
    Fulmars on nest, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

    You don't want to get into a fight with a fulmar. When sensing danger, it will spit a smelly, sticky stomach oil at its attacker. This oil is just as disastrous for a bird's plumage as fuel oil. Therefore, bullies such as great skuas leave the fulmar alone and steal food from other seabirds.

  • Deep divers
    Fulmar, ecomare, oscar bos

    Fulmars are very good divers, as deep as to meters. That's how they manage to hunt squid, animals which live in deeper water and rarely come to the surface.

  • Clown on land, acrobat at sea
    Fulmar, Marijke de Boer

    Fulmars are clumsy wagglers on land, but once they take flight, they are fantastic flyers. With outstretched wings, the bird can soar just above the water surface for a long time without flapping even once. They sail on the wind with their wings forming in one flat surface.

  • Indicator for marine litter studies
    Fulmar with litter, ecomare, salko de wolf

    Studies of fulmars are used to determine how much marine litter is floating in the North Sea. That is why the stomach contents of dead fulmars are studied at IMARES on Texel. Of the 294 fulmars that were examined in 2002 and 2003, an average of 32 pieces of plastic was found in 98% of the animals. Birds in the Dutch part of the North Sea contained the most plastic (50 pieces), while birds from Scotland had half as much.

    For a long time, it was believed that the birds took a long time to digest the plastic in their stomachs. However, new studies have shown that the birds grind it very rapidly into small particles, which they then poop out. As good as that may sound, that is not the case. The toxic materials in the plastic remain behind in the intestines. In that way, the fulmars are exposed to a high degree of toxic material. In addition, the small excreted pieces of plastic end up in nature. Because the birds can fly long distances, these plastics are easily spread over a large area.

  • Spotted in the North Sea
    Fulmars, Marijke de Boer

    In late summer, around 100,000 fulmars can be found on the Dutch section of the North Sea. Rough estimations indicate that this represents almost 3% of the North-Atlantic population.

  • Distribution and habitat
    Distribution of fulmars, North Sea region, Ecomare
    Source: Important bird areas for seabirds in the North Sea.

    Outside of the nesting season, you only find fulmars at sea.

  • Protection
    Fulmar, Foto Fitis,
    • National legislation: Flora and Fauna Regulation
    • International: Bern Convention