Communication and Perception
Northern fulmars are one of the few species of birds with a well-developed sense of smell. They may use olfaction to detect and find prey and can be attracted to areas by fish oil smells. Similar to other petrels and shearwaters, they emit a strong, musky odor. Individuals emit this odor when handled and colonies and flocks are easily detected by their smell. Birds sometimes engage in allopreening upon returning to breeding colonies.
Northern fulmar vocalizations have been described as "cackling" or "braying" at various speeds. These vocalizations are used during courtship, at approaches to nesting colonies, and in aggression against intruders. They make other calls as well, described as grunts, mewing, and spitting, which warns a threat that these birds are about to spit stomach oil at them, a defensive mechanism. Hatchlings use a food-begging call that stimulates parents to regurgitate.
They also use a variety of visual displays in aggressive encounters, including raising their wings, rushing at other birds, and pushing their breasts against the other bird. They also use their spitting call and oil spitting in aggressive encounters.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic