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Bird watching in Iceland

There are not many types of birds in Iceland. For example, only 77 species of birds breed against 196 species in our small Netherlands. However, there are a number of special species among them or they occur in overwhelming numbers such as the famous Puffin (puffin).

Photo by Miranda Zutt

When do you go bird watching in Iceland?

The best time for bird watching in Iceland is at the end of May / June when the breeding birds are back. Species that you encounter almost daily are the Golden Plover and the Common Snipe. We know the Golden Plover in the Netherlands mainly as a winter guest when they settle in large groups in fields and meadows.

In Iceland, however, you usually see them alone, on stony plains with at most some low vegetation. But also on roadsides or on a lamppost in one of the villages.

The Common Snipe likes to sit on posts and they make a lot of courtship flights at this time of the year where they make a very special sound with their tail. In the Netherlands there are only a few places where you can hear this, but if you pay attention you can hear them daily in Iceland.

Alpine ptarmigan

Another very special sound is that of the Icelandic Alpine Snow Grouse: husky, frog-like croaking, scratchy whirring or in courtly flight a loud ‘burping’ ‘aa-ka-ka’. They are beautiful birds, especially the male with their fiery red wattle above his eye. You often hear them before you see them and once you have heard the sound you will not forget it!

Photo by Miranda Zutt

Seabirds in Iceland

There is a lot of fish for seabirds around Iceland. It is therefore not surprising that the cliffs are full of Guillemots, Auks, Puffins and Northern Fulmars.

Popular with many tourists are the Puffins (puffins). They are called the clowns of the sea with their colorful beaks and sad eyes. Between April and August you can find them in various places on the cliffs.

For example, there are large colonies on the Westman Islands, Dyrhólaey, Hafnarhólmi and Látrabjarg. As many as two million pairs of Puffins breed in Iceland, but their numbers are declining rapidly.
The eggs and also the birds themselves are eaten by the population and you can even find it on the menu.

Waterfowl in Iceland

More duck species breed at Lake Mývatn than anywhere else in Europe! And there are a number of very special species that you can only see on Iceland in Europe, such as the Icelandic golden-eyed duck, harlequin duck and the common crested duck.

The Ice Diver may be black and white, but his drawing is beautiful and his sound very special, just look it up! The Red-throated Diver, with its beautiful dark red throat spot, you see more often on the many lakes and rivers.

The male of the Harlequin duck is a beautiful blue-gray and colored with reddish brown and white. The female is a lot less spectacular and is dark brown with a white spot on the head. They usually swim in small groups in fast-flowing streams and rivers. After mating, at the beginning of July, the males already leave for the sea where they stay until mid-April.

Photo by Marinco Lefevere

More information about bird watching in Iceland and the special nature (including whales, Arctic fox, plants) can be found in the magazine Iceland & nature and can be ordered at www.nnatuur.nl

This article about bird watching in Iceland was written by Miranda Zutt.

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