Dirty birds – Clean hands

Published on
April 15, 2021

Collecting northern fulmars from beaches for research can be a dirty job. This is certainly the case in our plastic monitoring project, in which old and decayed corpses are still of use. The stomach wall of fulmars is resistant to decay and is not easily punctured by maggots.

See for example our article of 19 August 2019 on the mass mortality of fulmars in an old Scottish croft. In spite of very strong decay, a lot of the corpses were still of use to study of the stomach contents.

Therefore we do ask our volunteers to collect beached fulmars, irrespective of decay and partial scavenging. We prefer to find occasional birds with an unsuitable or missing stomach on our dissection table, rather than leaving important information unused on the beach.

Use of bag to avoid any contact
Use of bag to avoid any contact

Like dog poop

Thus, as long as the belly area is not completely scavenged, please do collect fulmars for our research. Picking up such birds can be a smelly and dirty job if you come unprepared. However, if one brings suitable plastic bags, this can be done totally clean, in a way similar to dog owners picking up the poop from their pets. Avoiding contact will also prevent transfer of contaminants or disease.

Please watch the short video:

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Well packed and labelled

When using our video method, the collected fulmar is perfectly packed and labelled. Make your label a bit more informative that we did with our own bird in the video. Mention your name and contact information like your email address.

Beached fulmar ready for freezer storage and later autopsy.
Beached fulmar ready for freezer storage and later autopsy.

For reporting finds and to arrange temporary storage and transport, contact your regional coordinator. If unknown, contact the Dutch coordinator to obtain the contact details for your area.

Susanne Kühn
Wageningen Marine Research
Ankerpark 27, 1781 AG Den Helder, The Netherlands
M: +31 6 2199 2568