Nest-site attendance and foraging ecology of the Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) on the Faroe Islands. Is the Northern Fulmar a useful indicator of ecosystem productivity and pollution?

Johannis Danielsen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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The Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) is one of the most abundant seabirds in the Northern Hemisphere and the most abundant seabird on the Faroe Islands. Except from a few sporadic observations up until the 1950´s no study has focused on this species on the Faroe Islands. Being considered a significant consumer of marine resources in the Faroese marine ecosystem a closer study of this species´ breeding and feeding ecology and life-history in general was needed. The nest-site attendance was studied at two colonies, one located on a cliff by the sea while the other was a so called "inland colony" located about 1 km from the sea. At the colony by the sea, nest-site observations were done from 2004 to 2007 with binoculars and surveillance cameras with infrared leds. This made it possible to make observations both day and night throughout the year in order to study in greater detail individual nest-site patterns and breeding ecology. At the inland colony observations were done monthly from 1995 to 2009 in order to study the effect wind, temperature and marine ecosystem productivity had on nest-site attendance. In addition to this a diet and a pollution study was done in cooperation with the international Fulmar study group Save the North Sea (SNS). The general attendance pattern was a peak in April, when pairs are bonding and most of the copulations are done, followed by an abandonment of the nests until late May when the eggs are laid, the so called pre-laying exodus. The birds stayed at the colony all daylight hours then left the colony when the sun set, only to return with the sun rise. The colony by the sea was more or less abandoned in September with birds returning in December while at the inland colony, which was bigger, the birds were present all year except in October. During the non-breeding season wind speed seemed to regulate nest-site attendance while during the breeding season it was the marine ecosystem productivity closer to land. Fish was the major food source, supplemented with squid, polychaetes, crustaceans and scavenged prey. Surprisingly the mesopelagic Glacier Lanterfish (Benthosema glaciale) which lives at around 400 meter depth dominated in frequency of occurrence in the diet. Interestingly this species has a nocturnal vertical migration taking it all the way to the surface in search of zoo plankton. Being a surface feeder that takes all its food out at sea the Fulmar is known to ingest marine litter like plastics, and worryingly 58% (regional range 46-78%) of the birds had more then 0.1 g of plastic in the stomach.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Biology
  • Bengtson, Sven-Axel, Supervisor
Award date2011 Oct 7
Print ISBNs978-91-7473-150-7
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2011-10-07
Time: 13:00
Place: Blå Hallen, Department of Ecology, Animal Ecology Ecology Building SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden

External reviewer(s)

Name: Garthe, Stefan
Title: Dr.
Affiliation: Research and Technology Centre Westcoast, University of Kiel, Hafentoern 1, D-25761 Buesum, Germany


The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Animal Ecology (Closed 2011) (011012001)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology


  • Nest-site attendance
  • foraging ecology
  • indicator species
  • Fulmar
  • Fulmarus glacialis
  • nocturnal activity
  • ecosystem productivity
  • pollution
  • mesopelagic fish


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