Mallemuck, of Dutch origin, meaning foolish gull. A simular name, mollymawk, is still used for its relatives the albatrosses.
Status: Resident along all Irish coasts.
Conservation Concern: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population has been evaluated as Secure.
Identification: A gull-like bird with white underparts and pale grey upperparts. Also occurs in darker morphs ('Blue Fulmars'), which are commoner in the north of its range but not in Ireland. Has a thick neck and large head. Shows a pale primary patch on the upperwing. Does not show gull-like black tips to the primary feathers. Straight, stout bill with hooked tip and tube shaped nostrils on the upper mandible, giving distinctive bill shape if seen at close range. Nostrils used to excrete salt. Flies with very stiff wings, uses long glides at sea, with series of stiff, shallow wing beats. Hangs in the wind in the fierce updrafts generated by steep cliffs, where it can even fly backwards. Cannot stand upright, so needs to launch itself from a high ledge or patters along surface of sea to become airborne.
Similar Species: Gulls and the larger Shearwaters.
Call: Vocal at the breeding colonies, with pairs cackling to one another with a guttural throaty series of "Ga, ga, ga ..." sounds.
Diet: A great variety of food taken including fish, discards from trawlers, crustaceans and whale flesh.
Breeding: A bird that has expanded its breeding range throughout Ireland over the last century, beginning in Mayo in 1911. Comes to land in the day, unlike its relatives the shearwaters and other petrels. Mainly breeds on sea cliffs, but will nest on level ground, on buildings and in burrows and crevasses. Will use both steep rocky cliffs, grassy cliffs and steep slopes above cliffs. Both incubating adults and chick use projectile vomiting as a defensive against predators, the oily stomach contents effectively fouling the plumage of other birds.
Wintering: Winters at sea, but can be seen in Irish waters throughout the year. Attends colonies in the winter sporadically, with breeding cliffs deserted one week and full the next.
Where to See: Not difficult to see. Breeds all around the coast of Ireland where suitable cliffs provide breeding opportunities, can also be seen at sea throughout the year. Commonest in the west of Ireland but still plentiful in the east. During the 'Seabird 2000' survey, nearly 40,000 nesting sites were counted.
Monitored by: Breeding seabirds are monitored through surveys carried out every 15-20 years, the last was Seabird 2000, which was undertaken between 1998 & 2002.