Birdwatching in Iceland

Iceland is famous for a number of different things, but nature enthusiasts spend most of their focus on the birdwatching opportunities available there. Each year, millions of birds migrate to the island in the North Atlantic.

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The most common birds that migrate there are from Western Europe, but there is also a nice selection of birds from North America and the Arctic. Bird lovers may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of more exotic species of birds who have been blown off course.

If you want to see this amazing selection of winged creatures, you have the advantage, as you can use jet instead of wing power to get there.

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Even if no migratory species arrived in Iceland, there would still be some very interesting species to spy through your binoculars. The hardiest of all are those that fly in for winter. If you want to get your eyes on these feathered beauties, you’d better be prepared to pack your winter woolies.

You might think that spring and summer bird watching in Iceland is more acceptable because of the weather, but it actually has more to do with the stunning number of individual species that are on display. Many of them will be assembled on the nesting cliffs, which is among the most heavily populated in Europe. That large number of winged residents includes the world’s largest puffin colony.

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The average birdwatcher will get amazing views, as you can get within a few meters of the puffins. The eider ducks are even more welcoming, but you may have to put up with an aerial assault from the Arctic terns who are not so happy to see their territory invaded by humans. You don’t even have to get out in the wild to see some great birds, as those that live in Reykjavic City will be more than happy to settle for a few pieces of bread form the tourists.

While this may all sound as though it’s for the novice birder, make no mistake, Iceland is a land where the serious birdwatchers come to play. Most of those folks make their trips in the summer months when the water birds are most active. Ducks, geese, and sea birds are plentiful, but the rarer species include the white tailed eagle and the gray falcon.

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The warmer temperatures and the new forest growth over the last century has helped the number of bird species in Iceland really proliferate. Songbirds carried in on wild winds have found a home, with many new species now nesting in Iceland. Redwings, starlings, and the diminutive goldcrest are perfect examples.

The natives of Iceland love the changing of the seasons, and it is the arrival of specific bird species that often signals the changes. The golden plover makes its arrival in the early part of spring, and it is a joy to the residents when they see it arrive. Farmers may not hold ravens very dear to their hearts, but the other residents of Iceland welcome them in with open arms.

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During the summer, the ravens will stick to the countryside, but as the weather starts to close in, they will head into the city and share the streets with the locals, as the black birds search for a few crumbs to sustain them.

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Mike, Iceland24
© 2015 Iceland24

Birdwatching in Iceland