There is something truly majestic about seeing Icelandic birds fly. So powerful, elegant and yet so whimsical at the same time. Who knows, maybe it’s the drama of the landscape that also enhances the experience too. Certainly Iceland birdwatching is a calming activity that will leave you truly connected with nature.
What Kind of Birds are in Iceland?
Although we are a tiny island in the North Atlantic, we have some amazing birdlife to watch! Many species of birds migrate to Iceland each year and some even stay year round. To illustrate, here is a rundown of the different types you may be lucky enough to see while Iceland birdwatching…
Personally, I think Ravens get a bad wrap because of Edgar Allen Poe. But here in Iceland, we LOVE them. For example, there are hundreds of stories, songs, poems, and Icelandic rhymes about them. Why? Because they are extremely intelligent, strong, and crafty which makes them fun characters for Iceland birdwatching.
In fact, one of my favorite Norse Mythology stories is about how Óðinn a Nordic God sent out this two ravens Muninn and Huginn (mindful + rememberful). It was their duty to track the happenings of the world for him and report back.
Oh la la now on to what some say, the darling of Iceland birdwatching… Puffins! Certainly these birds are colorful and freaking adorable! Even down to their clumsy flying abilities as they are not very graceful. But when they waddle on land or look at you they will steal your heart. Did you know they not only mate but nest for life together once they find their partner? More about when and where you can see them follow below.
Even though the Arctic Tern is diminutive in stature, it’s travels can impress all of us. For example, they are the longest traveling migratory bird. Traveling from Antarctica to Artic every year. Plus, if you’re a lover of Iceland birdwatching then you’ll enjoy seeing the terns “dive bombing” technique when defending their eggs.
When doing Iceland birdwatching year round, you’ll find ptarmigans! Also, don’t be surprised if you find these little guys walking instead of flying. Therefore, they need to camouflage themselves. So how do they do that? Well during winter they have white feathers to camo among the snow. Then during summer their feathers are brown. Sadly, here in the town of Vik ad several other countryside towns these lovely birds are hunted for a few days in December for Christmas dinner.
The Snipe in Icelandic is named, Hrossagaukur which directly translates to “horse cuckoo.” Many actually identify the start of summer with their strange sound / call they make. Iceland birdwatching lovers are most likely to find them in wetlands.
Mid to late March brings Springtime in Iceland. And the Golden Plovers are said to bring it each year. How fun right?!
Sometimes Iceland birdwatching is unsuccessful if you’re on a mission to find some of our more rare ones. For instance, the illusive Snow Owl is almost near impossible to find. However when you do, you should count your blessings and buy a lottery ticket, lol! Majestic creatures, truly! And the only downside is that Ptarmigans are their favorite meal. If you’re curious to find them, plan an Iceland self-drive trip to the Westfjords or in the Icelandic Highlands.
Although, Fulmars might look like a seagull, they are not! They are a cliff nesting bird which holds an interesting surprise feature… For example, they have a defense mechanism which allows them to puke up to 2 meters away. Some of us Iceland birdwatching lovers refer to them as a “skunk.”
On that same note, I have a funny story to share… Firstly, my wife and I have a few adventure bengal cats we’re raising. Well one summer day, a fulmar baby bird was at outside of our summerhouse and one of the cats went to go meet it. The baby immediately went into defense mode trying to puke out anything it had in its belly.
But the poor baby bird likely hadn’t eaten for several days. So my wife and I captured it then took it down to the beach to release it. Why? Fulmar babies need to get to the ocean within days of leaving the nest or they will die.
When you think about “shore birds” in correlation with Iceland birdwatching, your mind should instantly think about Whimbrels. Certainly their long skinny legs and long beaks aid them in finding the best bugs!
Another hard to find bird that can be found in Iceland is the White-Tailed Eagle. More often than not, they can be found on whale watching boats or within the Westfjords. However the Iceland birdwatching culture will be sad to know only about 70 of the birds have been found calling Iceland home.
One of the funniest little birds found in Iceland are called Oystercatchers. Characterized by their little black and white bodies and orange long beak. Iceland birdwatching experts know the difference between them and Puffins but many tourists do not.
An incredible amount of ducks call Iceland home year round and specifically during summertime. For instance of few of our favorite types follow:
- Eurasian Teal
- Eurasian Wigeon
- Golden Eye
- Greater Scaup
- Northern Pintail
- Red-Breasted Merganser
Gyrfalcons are bad ass for Iceland birdwatching! Further, these impeccable birds are also the national bird of Iceland.
Extinct Icelandic Bird
In 1844, the very last mating pair of Great Auk’s were killed by Icelandic hunters. Unfortunately they did not know or realize they were the last. Beautiful birds that sadly no longer exist. Additionally, trying to salvage things a bit, Iceland pays the Great Auk’s tribute by creating a statue oceanside within the Reykjanes Peninsula.
When is Bird Watching Season?
Prime time for Iceland birdwatching is between mid May and August throughout the entire island. But here in the South, we have seen the migrant birds as late as September too, just don’t count on them. As the weather in Iceland can really transition mid to late September.
Best Places to Bird Watch in South Iceland
Next, after all that you’re likely curious to know the best places to do South Iceland birdwatching, right? Vik Expeditions would love to give you some tips on where to go and they follow below…
12 Best Places for Iceland Birdwatching:
- Krýsuvíkurbjarg Cliffs in Southwest Iceland.
- Festarfjall Mountain Pass in Southwest.
- Lighthouse on Gardskagi within Southwest Iceland.
- Hafnarberg Sea Cliffs within Southwest Iceland.
- Valahnúkur Mountain & Rock Formations in Southwest Iceland.
- Tjörnin Pond in downtown Reykjavik.
- Westman Islands (the entire island) ferry is near to Seljalandsfoss.
- Þingvellir National Park within Southern Iceland.
- Dyrhólaey Lighthouse near to Vik Iceland.
- Reynisfjara & Vik Beach.
- Jökulsárlón & Diamond Beach in Southeast Iceland.
- Vestrahorn Mountain in Southeast Iceland.
Iceland Bird Watching Expeditions
Excited to find your way here to do some unforgettable Iceland birdwatching? Hope today Vik Expeditions blog post has provided you a plethora of information to get you started! In conclusion, if you find yourself wanting to elevate your birdwatching experience feel free to contact us. Why? Because we just may have a few ideas up our sleeve to accomplish that for you!
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