Patients of the Week: Northern Fulmars
Every few years we receive quite a few of one of our favorite species all at once, namely Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis). These oceanic birds are small relatives of albatrosses, and are adored by many wildlife rehabilitators for their beautiful faces and intense musky smell that no two of us will describe the same.
Since January 2020, we have received 23 fulmars – 19 in Northern California and 4 in Southern California. All have been anemic, underweight, and most have had trouble thermoregulating. Critical care for them involves thermal support to help them stay warm, fluid therapy, and tube feedings until they feel like eating again. Help feed a fulmar
Currently, three birds are showing signs of a disease we have seen before, where the birds have often-severe anemia, hemorrhages and inflamed blood vessels in their feet, and are at risk of dying from secondary infections. In 2012, during our last large influx of fulmars, we were able to contribute to the discovery of a novel fulmar virus that may be responsible, as the closest relative virus causes similar symptoms in chickens. Much remains to be discovered about the disease challenges of wild seabirds! Read the paper here
Once they are able to stay outside in our pools, they can be quite cantankerous and prone to squabbling; hence, we often have to monitor them carefully to make sure individual birds are getting along. Despite fulmars stranding in horrible nutritional shape, once they start eating, they often gain an enormous amount of weight. Three birds have already recovered and been released as plump, vigorous birds back into the ocean.