Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

March 6, 2020

Meet Ralph: A Bird with Peculiarities

“Ralph” earned his name for this Northern Fulmar’s propensity to vomit as self defense. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

We’re seeing a lot of fulmars in care lately (more about this below). These pelagic birds (often confused with gulls) have some, well, peculiarities—chief among them being their “special” reaction to anything they perceive as a threat, which, unfortunately, includes humans who attempt to help them. How exactly do they protect themselves? By projectile-vomiting a stinky orange liquid straight at the perceived enemy. Watch this semi-gross video!

That brings us to one particular fulmar we’ve recently taken into care. He started off being identified by his temporary leg band, Yellow-119. But he’s become popular with our followers, who have suggested different names for him based on his spewing abilities. He’s now been dubbed “Ralph”—a name we get a chuckle out of, and one that’s a lot better than some of the other terms for vomiting that have been offered!

Hungry Fulmars need to eat. Won’t you help? Donate here

Ralph is a “light morph” Northern Fulmar that came into care in late February after he beached himself in Monterey. Staff and volunteers have watched as he’s gained some weight (despite barfing and thereby losing some grams along the way!), stabilized, and begun eating well. And staff and volunteers have also learned not to take it personally when Ralph spews orange-colored stinky stuff (disgusting orange Kool-Aid?) their way.

Another “peculiarity” of fulmars is their beak, which is a bit different – some followers have asked whether Ralph’s beak is broken. Rest assured, it is not broken. Fulmars are members of the tubenose family, which have evolved a special gland to remove the excess salt that builds up from all their ocean-going feeding frenzies. That odd-looking part of the beak is where salt is secreted.

Ralph is one of more than 30 Northern Fulmars that have come into care at our two California wildlife hospitals since the start of this year. All of them have arrived hungry, anemic, and underweight, and most have had trouble thermoregulating. The critical hospital care we provide involves thermal support to warm them, fluid therapy, and tube feedings until they are well enough to eat on their own. According to our friends at beach-watch organizations, they’re finding increasingly more dead fulmars on area beaches, the reason for which is not yet known. Read more

Your donations enable us to continue saving birds’ lives. We are ever grateful to those of you who help us feed and provide needed care for seabirds so that they can be returned to their natural lives.

Northern Fulmar “Ralph” enjoys some outdoor pool time at the San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center. He’s gaining weight and hopefully limiting his barfing.

 

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