The Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) is a pelagic seabird that breeds across 25° of latitude, from the boreal to the high Arctic oceanographic zones. We examined the breeding schedule of fulmars in the remote Cape Vera colony in the Canadian high Arctic, a marine region covered by sea ice much of the year, to determine if the timing of breeding and colony attendance patterns of birds differed from the breeding phenology of fulmars in colonies farther south. Cape Vera fulmars arrived at the colony later in the year, spent less time at the colony before egg-laying, and took a significantly longer prelaying exodus from the colony compared to fulmars nesting in more southerly colonies. After egg-laying, however, patterns of colony attendance by fulmars in the high Arctic were similar to patterns for fulmars in southern colonies; this part of the fulmar breeding schedule may be inflexible. The differences in breeding schedules across the species' range might reflect behavioral adaptations by arctic-nesting birds to accommodate the physical and biological limitations imposed by extensive sea ice near arctic colonies, particularly early in the breeding season. Given that climate warming and corresponding reductions in sea ice are taking place in the Arctic, it remains to be determined whether fulmars in the high Arctic have the behavioral flexibility in their breeding phenology to compensate for rapidly occurring changes in their environment.
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Vol. 109 • No. 4