Dead Bird Quiz answer

5 12 2009

Doug Suitor is a ringer! He’s right again; the answer to yesterday’s dead bird quiz is, indeed, a Northern Fulmar. Here’s the walk-through for those of us less gifted in deceased bird observing than Doug.

The bill is one of the most useful features in this specimen. It’s a tubenose, with that weird structure atop the bill characteristic of petrels, albatross, shearwaters and the like. The bill is also pale. This might suggest a Cory’s Shearwater, as most of the tubenoses anywhere near SEANET beaches have dark bills. But the fulmar’s bill is much stubbier than any of our shearwaters.

Cory's Shearwater. A much longer bill relative to the head size than the Fulmar. (photo by A. Raine)

All in all, everything about the Northern Fulmar is stockier and stubbier than our shearwater friends. Sorry fulmars, but it’s true; you guys are like linebackers attempting to dance with the ballerinas. The tail and wings on the fulmar are short and rounded, and even the neck is thick, giving the fulmar a stocky appearance overall.

Sibley writes that an additional aid in differentiating the fulmar from other tubenoses is the fulmar’s lack of an “M” pattern on its back and upperwing. The common shearwater species and storm petrels Seanetters might encounter generally have some degree of this pattern (though I think  it’s pretty hard to see on the very dark Manx Shearwater). Really the “M” is most distinct on the petrels, and you won’t see many of them in SEANET territory.

Northern Fulmar. The gray back and white head might make one think "gull" if glimpsed quickly. Note, however, the very short, rounded tail.

Have a good weekend Seanetters; and your blogger is looking forward to meeting some of the Cape Cod contingent at tomorrow’s presentation in Wellfleet. See you there!




One response

6 12 2009
Doug Suitor

You are gonna make me blush! Now if I could just find one.

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