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Length 45-51cm. Wingspan 102-112cm.
Pale morph: back and rump silvery-grey, upperwings pale grey with darker primaries and carpal area and white bases to primaries forming a pale wing-patch, tail white. Head white with dark lores and underparts white. Underwing white with greyish primary tips and narrow trailing edge. Iris dark brown, short and heavy bill yellowish with bluish-grey base, legs greenish to flesh.
Dark morph: largely smoky-grey with darker carpal area and promaries but lacks pale patch, plumage wears to brownish. A wide range of intermediates between these two forms occurs.
In the North Pacific breeds on the coasts of eastern Siberia, Sakhalin, the Kurile and Commander Islands, Wrangel, Pribilof and St. Lawrence Islands and the Alaskan Peninsula. In North Atlantic breeds Baffin Island and Greenland, on Svalbard, Bear Island, and Franz Josef Land and perhaps Novaya Zemlya.
Further south breeds in Newfoundland, around the coasts of Iceland, the Faroes and British Isles. Smaller numbers breed on the German island of Heligoland, in Norway and north-west France and has recently bred in Denmark. Range has expanded greatly in Britain over the last century and there are now colonies on much of the east and south coasts where formerly absent.
Pacific birds winter south to Japan and California, rarely Baja California. Atlantic birds disperse from colonies and winter at sea from about 450N to the Arctic. A few may remain at some colonies throughout the year or visit during non-breeding period but most are at sea during September-March.
Subspecies: The North Pacific race is rodgersii with the slenderest bill and the darkest dark morph and palest pale morph birds, nominate race breeds in the high Arctic of the Atlantic and auduboni further south.
Pacific birds seems to be genetically quite distinct from Atlantic birds, and may in the future be proposed as full species.
Breeds on rocky islands and mainland cliffs, sometimes in quarries or among rocks and ruined buildings some distance inland.
Pelagic when not breeding. Often attracted to fishing boats.
Breeds in large colonies from mid-May to late September on a bare rock ledge or in a slight depression in softer substrate. Single dull white egg incubated by both sexes for 55-57 days. Young fed by both parents, initially daily but later at longer intervals, leaves nest at 46-51 days.
Diet includes squid and fish, also offal from fishing and whaling vessels.
Voice is a harsh cackling when quarrelling for food.
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Paper describing genetic separation of Pacific from Atlantic Northern Fulmar
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