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A not uncommon, but far from numerous, bird of rocky sea cliffs along the Purbeck and Portland coasts

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

If you stand on the cliffs at Durlston or Portland or, indeed, anywhere along the Dorset sea cliffs in spring or summer you will often see a fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) circling on the breeze, stiff wings outstretched, rarely having to beat them. The fulmar is a master glider; it is a member of the albatross family and displays many of the family characteristics. Its main claim to fame, however, is its inclination to eject a foul, fishy smelling oily substance at anyone who annoys it. This 'foul mere' is where it gets its name.

After breeding the birds fly out to sea and are rarely seen in the autumn, that is October and November, but they return to their breeding locations in December to start the nesting cycle again.

Often seen in the company of gulls, it stands out amongst them because of the long, thin, gliding wings. It is quite common, although not numerous, along the Dorset coast and regularly breeds here along the Purbeck and Portland limestone cliffs. They are also reported from other coastal locations as they spread out in search of food.

Need fulmar for your Dorset list? No problem! Head to Durlston in spring or mid-summer and walk out to the viewpoint south of the Castle and within minutes you will see one gliding close to the cliffs.


Fulmar: a foul mere

Common Name Fulmar
Scientific Name Fulmarus glacialis
Species Group Birds Shearwaters Petrels Auks and Cormorants
Status Local
Interest Level
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
Look for

Gull-like birds with stiff, outstretched wings gliding near cliffs

Identification Notes
  • Although similar to gulls it is a member of the petrel family and is properly known as the fulmar petrel
  • Noted for their skillful gliding flight using stiffly held outstretched wings
  • Breed on the cliffs of Dorset and are most numerous in summer but can be seen all year round   
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Shearwaters Petrels Auks and Cormorants