Marine Biology

, Volume 154, Issue 6, pp 1031–1040 | Cite as

Flexible incubation rhythm in northern fulmars: a comparison between oceanographic zones

  • M. L. Mallory
  • A. J. Gaston
  • M. R. Forbes
  • H. G. Gilchrist
  • B. Cheney
  • S. Lewis
  • P. M. Thompson
Original Paper


Variation in the timing and abundance of marine food resources is known to affect the breeding behaviour of many seabirds, constraining our understanding of the extent to which these behaviours vary in different parts of a species’ range. We studied incubation shifts of northern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) breeding at two colonies in Arctic Canada (High Arctic oceanographic zone) and one colony in the UK (Boreal oceanographic zone) between 2001 and 2005. Fulmars in Arctic Canada had longer incubation shifts than previously reported at more southern colonies, presumably because marine productivity is lower early in the breeding season in the Arctic. Shift durations were particularly long at one colony in years with abnormally late, extensive sea-ice cover, although at the other Arctic colony, where sea-ice cover is predictably late every year, the duration of shifts was shorter than expected. At the Boreal colony, incubation shifts were much longer than expected, similar to Arctic colonies, and likely attributable to poor marine food supplies in the North Sea in recent years. Collectively, our data suggest that fulmars can adjust their incubation rhythm to compensate for poor marine feeding conditions, although this may incur a cost to body condition or reproductive success.


Pair Member Incubation Behaviour Nest Attendance Arctic Site Northern Fulmar 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the many students and colleagues who made the Cape Vera, Prince Leopold Island and Eynhallow projects possible from 2000 to 2005. Canadian work was conducted in accordance with Canadian Council on Animal Care guidelines and under the following permits: research (NUN-SCI-03-02, WL000190, WL000714), animal care (2003PNR017, 2004PNR021, 2005PNR021), and land use (59A/7-2-2). The Canadian work would not have been possible without the financial and logistic support provided by Environment Canada (NCD and NEI), Natural Resources Canada (PCSP), the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, and Carleton University. Scottish data collection was funded by the Royal Society and Talisman Energy (UK) Ltd. Sue Lewis was supported by a Leverhulme Fellowship and Barbara Cheney was partially supported by a Nuffield Bursary. We thank Orkney Island’s Council for access to Eynhallow.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. L. Mallory
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. J. Gaston
    • 3
  • M. R. Forbes
    • 2
  • H. G. Gilchrist
    • 3
  • B. Cheney
    • 4
  • S. Lewis
    • 4
    • 5
  • P. M. Thompson
    • 4
  1. 1.Canadian Wildlife ServiceIqaluitCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  3. 3.National Wildlife Research CentreCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  4. 4.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AberdeenCromarty, Ross-shireUK
  5. 5.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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