Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The global population is estimated at c.7,000,000 pairs or 20,000,000 individuals (Carboneras et al. 2016). In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 3,380,000-3,500,000 pairs, which equates to 6,760,000-7,000,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). In Russia the population is estimated at c.100,000-1 million breeding pairs and >c.10,000 individuals on migration (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
In the Atlantic the species has undergone a large range expansion over the last two centuries whilst Arctic populations have remained relatively stable over the last four centuries (Brooke 2004, Carboneras et al. 2016). The population trend is increasing in North America (based on BBS/CBC data: Butcher and Niven 2007). In Europe since declines began in the mid-1980s (c. one generation) the population size is estimated to have declined by more than 40%. Although there is uncertainty in the projected magnitude of the decline owing to the long generation length of the species, the population size in Europe is estimated to be decreasing by 50-79% in the period 1985-2077 (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015).

Distribution and population

This species is found breeding throughout the north Atlantic and north Pacific, ranging from Japan and the United Kingdom in the south, to the high Arctic in the north. Northern populations are migratory, travelling south as the sea freezes over. Southern populations are more dispersive, but do not usually reach zones of warm water. Young birds may undertake transoceanic crossings and general wander further than the less mobile adults (del Hoyo et al. 1992).


This species typically breeds on cliffs and rock faces, but also occasionally on flatter ground sometimes up to 1 km inland. It will also breed near human habitation, sometimes even on occupied houses along the seafront of towns. Its diet comprises of variable quantities of fish, squid and zooplankton (especially amphipods), and it will also feed on fish offal and carrion (e.g. whale blubber). Most of its food is obtained by surface seizing but it will also plunge (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Tracking at Bear Island (Norway) revealed breeders foraging close to the colony, preferring the continental shelf. As chicks became older, parents foraged further from the colony, eventually regularly embarking on long trips to the Norwegian coast (Weimerskirch et al. 2001).


In some breeding colonies, the species is susceptible to low level predation from invasive mammals such as rats Rattus spp., cats Felis catus and Red Fox Vulpes vulpes (Mendel et al. 2008). Bycatch in fisheries is also a significant threat, with large numbers recorded as caught in longline fisheries in the North East Atlantic and in trawl fisheries (Dunn et al. 2001, Anderson et al. 2011) as well as in gill-net fisheries (Žydelis et al. 2013). However, bycatch is not believed to be causing significant population decline. The species is susceptible to oil spills throughout North Sea with chronic pollution recorded in many individuals, yet with apparently minor impacts on reproductive rates.

Plastic ingestion also represents a threat across much of the Northern Fulmar’s range, with around 95% of beached birds in the North Sea containing plastic, more than 40% in the eastern Canadian Arctic (van Franeker et al. 2011) and 87% in Svalbard (Trevail et al. 2015). The majority of these contained more than the 0.1g per individual deemed acceptable under the OSPAR agreement; however, there is evidence that relatively large loads of ingested plastic may be processed through a bird relatively rapidly (van Franeker et al. 2011). Plastic loads are higher in juvenile birds and there is some evidence that adults pass on plastic to chicks. The effect of plastic ingestion on the population is unknown.

The species was subject to intensive exploitation for food in the past, and hunting continues in Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard and the Faroe Islands (Thorup et al. 2014, Carboneras et al. 2016). However, this is not thought to have a significant impact on the population.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species is covered by the EU Birds Directive as a migratory species. In Europe it occurs within 29 marine Important Bird Areas, including in the Faroe Islands, France, Germany, Iceland, Svalbard (Norway) and the United Kingdom. Within the EU it is listed within 46 Special Protection Areas. Under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive it will be monitored for plastic ingestion. Mitigation measures have been developed to reduce bycatch of the species (Løkkeborg and Robertson 2002).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Identification and protection of important sites at sea, as well as for prey species. Continued monitoring of marine litter ingestion, and increased efforts for removal of plastic from oceans. Monitoring of seabird bycatch across all relevant fishing gears and implementation of bycatch mitigation measures.


Text account compilers
Stuart, A., Ekstrom, J., Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Fjagesund, T., Calvert, R., Hermes, C., Martin, R., Newton, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Fulmarus glacialis. Downloaded from on 03/12/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 03/12/2023.