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10 Spectacular Birds of Iceland

Iceland and the Birds Galore

Map of Iceland

Under the Arctic Circle, between Europe and American continents, there is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, called Iceland. Close to Greenland, it is the westernmost country of Europe. Iceland has a large coastline as seen in the Map outlined in this Module. The island serves as a perfect breeding place both for birds preferring low-coastal region as well as cliff breeding. This island is chosen by breeding species from Europe and North America and serves as a stopover region for birds which spend winter and summer elsewhere.

There are 370 varieties of birds registered on Iceland because of which tourists and bird behaviour enthusiasts throng to Iceland, especially towards the cliffs where these birds breed and live. The birds can be observed from close quarters on these cliffs.

Join me to enjoy 10 spectacular species of birds of Iceland showcased in this Hub.

White-Tailed Sea Eagle

White-Tailed Sea Eagle in Flight

The white-tailed sea eagle is a very large bird of prey. Norway and Russia have the largest population of these, even though Greenland, Denmark and Sweden also have significant number of the white-tailed sea eagles. Its major prey includes fish, mammals and birds. However, some eagles indulge in pirating and, thus, act as scavengers. The white-tailed eagle has brownish plumage with yellow beak and legs.The adult has white tail feathers. It is the national bird of Germany.

White-tailed sea eagles are found around large bodies of water where they can easily find their prey. They have strong talons and can carry their prey to heights and long distances. Some of them are seen eating them even during their flight.

There was a dramatic decrease in population of the white-tailed sea eagles. In fact, they became almost extinct in many regions of Europe in the nineteenth and major part of the twentieth century. However, there has been a dramatic recovery due to efforts made for their conservation and reintroduction in the United Kingdom and Ireland after 1980's.


Razorbills in flight

The razorbill is a black bird with white underparts. It is a colonial seabird with both males and females looking alike. The distinguishing characteristics of the Razorbill are heavy beak with vertical white streak and also a white line from eye to beak. These features make the razorbill an attractive bird.

The razorbill can mainly be found on cliffs of Iceland but also along the Atlantic coast in many other countries in breeding colonies. Female razorbill lays only one egg per year. They feed themselves and their younger ones on schooling fish which they catch by diving deep in the sea. They are quite agile.

Arctic foxes and polar bears are their predators but diving skills of the Razorbills help them often to avoid these predators.

Enjoy the Agility and Diving Skills of Razorbills

Atlantic Puffin

Puffin  at Latrabjarg - Fratercula arctica

Puffin at Latrabjarg - Fratercula arctica

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Atlantic puffins are one of the most lovable birds in Iceland. They add to the amusement of tourists and bird watchers because of their colourful looks comprising heavy bright orange beak and whitish face. They also attract many due to their manoeuvring skills, both in the air and at land. Their beaks, however, present duller looks due to shedding of the colourful outer part after breeding. Atlantic puffins are known for long-term pair relationship and their joint efforts to incubate the single egg laid by the female as well as while feeding the chick. Látrabjarg, Breiðafjörður and Lundey are the areas where major colonies of puffins are found. They have the capability of diving in the sea and picking up fish while holding the earlier catches.

A Closer Look at Atlantic Puffin

Rock Ptarmigan

Rock Ptarmigan During Winter

The rock ptarmigan is a common game-bird known for changing colours between seasons. During winter it is pure white like snow except its black tail but with the melting of snow it changes to dark and white. This change is faster in the female than the male. The feathered feet of the rock ptarmigan act like snow-shoes facilitating walk on soft snow. It is a ground dwelling bird having nests near large rocks for shelter. It eats germinated seeds, flowers, insects and willow buds.

It is called ptarmigan in Canada and the United Kingdom and is also found in the alpine and the Arctic areas of Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia. Predation of rock ptarmigans by snowy owls and gyrfalcons is known and in some parts of the world they are also hunted by men.

Black-Legged Kittiwake

Black-legged Kittiwake - Rissa tridactyla - near eggs

Black-legged Kittiwake - Rissa tridactyla - near eggs

Black-Legged Kittiwake in Flight

Black-legged kittiwakes are found mostly in North America and Europe along the North Pacific and the North Atlantic oceans. They live in large colonies while breeding on the cliffs and make a lot of noise. While their body and head are white, their back and wings are grey. Their black legs and yellow bills make them distinct. They have acquired the name due to their nasal call-notes "ki-ti-waak". They often dip down during their flights to catch fish, but they are quite capable of plunging into water to catch their prey.

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern - terna paradisaea

Arctic Tern - terna paradisaea

Arctic terns are very pretty but aggressive in nature. Their dark red beaks, short legs and webbed feet attract the visitors. However, they cannot tolerate them near their nests and exhibit their intolerance with attacking postures. Arctic terns are also known for their strong migratory character as they move to the northern regions for breeding and return to southern part in the winter. These long trips in a year make them to face summer twice. These long-lived seabirds eat fish and they dive down or even dip down sometimes to water to catch their prey.

Flight of an Arctic Tern in Disturbed Mood

Black Guillemot

Black guillemots are dark brown-black in colour but have a very distinctive white patch on their wings. Their bills are black but thin. Also, their feet are reddish and so is their gape. They can also be recognised by their light wailing whistles. They are found at rocky shores and cliffs in Atlantic coasts, West Europe and Ireland and they lay their eggs on sites which are rocky and near water. They are typically found in ones and twos. They swim underwater in search of food like fish and also eat insects.

Watch Black Guillemots Taking a Bath

Red-Throated Loon

Red-throated Diver - Gavia stellata - Lómur

Red-throated Diver - Gavia stellata - Lómur

The red-throated loon acquired its name by virtue of a reddish patch on its throat during breeding season. These very small and light-weighted loons build their nests for incubating the eggs as also for feeding their younger ones. They are monogamous and known for their long-term pair bonds. They breed in the Iceland and then most of them migrate to the coastal regions of Europe. They are also known for different vocalisations and their calls vary as per circumstances. They are fish eaters but can also eat frogs and insects.

Watch the Swim and Sound of Red-Throated Loon

Great Black-Backed Gull

Arnstein Rønning - Larus marinus

Arnstein Rønning - Larus marinus

Great Black-Backed Gull in Flight

The great black-backed gull, the largest among gulls, has quite imposing appearance with distinctive blackish colouring of its upper wings. Its head, neck and underparts are white, legs are pink but bill is yellow. While breeding it is found on the European and North American coasts and it normally breeds on cliff tops. It has a powerful bill and indulges in hunting of young ones of other species of birds. Being predatory, it uses its aggression, physical strength and large size.

Northern Gannet

Northern gannets are seabirds with quite long wings. They have peculiar yellowish head with black wings at the tail end. Their body colour is white and they have long bills. They are known for making a straight dive from a height to catch fish in deep water. They are colonial breeders and have their nesting grounds in the United Kingdom, Scotland, Canada and Ireland.

Your Love for Birds of Iceland


Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on November 12, 2015:

Livetech, It will surely be a thilling experience. I would be keen to know. Best of luck to you for your proposed trip.

Paul Levy from United Kingdom on November 12, 2015:

As a huge fan of wildlife, I really appreciated this ahead of my trip to Iceland in a few months. I will be sure to bring my birdwatching gear along with me on my mountain hikes and try to spy a few of these winged wonders. Fingers crossed!

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on October 26, 2013:

aziza786, Thanks for stopping by. I am glad you liked the birds.

Zia Uddin from UK on October 26, 2013:

The birds of Iceland surely are spectacular. Thanks for sharing this hub.

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on July 01, 2013:

tastiger04, thanks for stopping by. I am glad you liked the Hub. Have a nice day!

tastiger04 on July 01, 2013:

Awesome hub. More reasons to visit Iceland!! voted up!

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on April 30, 2013:

aviannovice, Thanks for stopping by Birds of Iceland. I can vouch your interest in birds and it would be a privilege to learn more about birds from your Hubs. Have a wonderful day!

bdegiulio, I am glad my Hub could generate some interest in you to visit Iceland. These spectacular birds might be attracting many to various place in Iceland. Thanks for visiting. Have a nice time!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on April 30, 2013:

Hi rsrddn. Great hub. I have always wanted to visit Iceland so this will come in handy when I get there someday. Love the photos and video.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on April 30, 2013:

Thanks for sharing the birds of Iceland. I know a few of these from the Atlantic coast and wild bird rehabilitation.

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