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A Bird of Two Colors

Two different birds? Nope, same species, different colors!

Related to shearwaters and petrels, the Northern Fulmar will eat just about anything it finds on the surface of the ocean, from fish and squids to dead whales. Fulmars are polymorphic, that is to say they come in more than one color. This difference is independent of sex and age. The reason for their color variation remains a mystery. You can find out more about the Northern Fulmar at Cornell's All About Birds. There's more about polymorphism at UWM.edu.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Northern Fulmar - A Bird of Two Colors

Written by Dennis Paulson

This is BirdNote!
[Wind whistling; sound of boat engine]
Set sail from the Northwest coast, and when you get out far enough, you’ll see birds you don’t see from shore.
[Northern Fulmar calls]
One of these birds is the Northern Fulmar (pronounced ful-mar), an abundant seabird related to shearwaters and petrels. Fulmars have long wings, stocky bodies, and thick bills. And they eat just about anything they find on the surface of the ocean, from fish and squids to dead whales. Some fulmars look like gulls, with snow-white bodies and gray wings, but others are dark gray all over.
[Northern Fulmar calls]
Fulmars are polymorphic, that is to say they come in more than one color. This difference is independent of sex and age. The fulmars we see off the Northwest coast come from Alaska, where populations in the Aleutian Islands are mostly dark, while those in the Pribilofs are mostly light. In both areas, however, gray and light birds freely interbreed. The reason for their color variation remains a mystery. But it is something to ponder, to keep your mind off seasickness while out in the realm of the fulmar.
[Wind and waves]
Come to our web site, BirdNote.org, and study a photograph of gray and light Northern Fulmars, side by side. I’m Frank Corrado.
###
Call of the Northern Fulmar provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by W.W.H. Gunn.
Ambient waves and boat motor by Kessler Productions.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2010 Tune In to Nature.org   Feb. 2010

ID# 022107NOFUtranscript            NOFU-01

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