1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fulmar

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FULMAR, from the Gaelic Fulmaire, the Fulmarus glacialis of modern ornithologists, one of the largest of the petrels (Procellariidae) of the northern hemisphere, being about the size of the common gull (Larus canus) and not unlike it in general coloration, except that its primaries are grey instead of black. This bird, which ranges over the North Atlantic, is seldom seen on the European side below lat. 53° N., but on the American side comes habitually to lat. 45° or even lower. In the Pacific it is represented by a scarcely separable form, F. glupischa. It has been commonly believed to have two breeding-places in the British Islands, namely, St Kilda and South Barra; but, according to Robert Gray (Birds of the West of Scotland, p. 499), it has abandoned the latter since 1844, though still breeding in Skye. Northward it established itself about 1838 on Myggenaes Holm, one of the Faeroes, while it has several stations off the coast of Iceland and Spitsbergen, as well as at Bear Island. Its range towards the pole seems to be only bounded by open water, and it is the constant attendant upon all who are employed in the whale and seal fisheries, showing the greatest boldness in approaching boats and ships, and feeding on the offal obtained from them. By British seamen it is commonly called the “molly mawk”[1] (corrupted from Mallemuck), and is extremely well known to them, its flight, as it skims over the waves, first with a few beats of the wings and then gliding for a long way, being very peculiar. It only visits the land to deposit its single white egg, which is laid on a rocky ledge, where a shallow nest is made in the turf and lined with a little dried grass. Many of its breeding-places are a most valuable property to those who live near them and take the eggs and young, which, from the nature of the locality, are only to be had at a hazardous risk of life. In St Kilda a large number of the young are killed in one week of August, the only time when, by the custom of the community, they are allowed to be taken. These, after the oil is extracted from them, serve the islanders with food for the winter. The oil has been chemically analysed and found to be a fish-oil, and to possess nearly all the qualities of that obtained from the liver of the cod, with a lighter specific gravity. It, however, has an extremely strong scent, which is said by those who have visited St Kilda to pervade every thing and person on the island, and is certainly retained by an egg or skin of the bird for many years. Whenever a live example is seized in the hand it ejects a considerable quantity of this oil from its mouth.

  1. A name misapplied in the southern hemisphere to Diomedea melanophrys, one of the albatrosses.