There are a great number of designated areas for the very purpose of birding. Interestingly, the birds you see in one part of the island might be completely different from those in another region. Every year, countless passionate birders come to the Icelandic shores for a glimpse of the puffin, gyrfalcon, and a vast selection of other bird species. The coastal areas of Iceland and the areas further inland are both ideal for bird watching. Visiting Iceland can give you a great experience if spotting exotic and rare birds is your objective.
Since the earliest humans arrived on the Icelandic shores, there have been documented sightings of nearly 350-400 bird species. Close to 80 species of birds regularly nest across different parts of the country. Some of the bird species you will come across include puffin, Arctic tern, raven, great skua, European golden plover, white-tailed eagle, common snipe, common starling and rock ptarmigan. The national bird of Iceland is the gyrfalcon or ‘the bird of prey’, generally found in the coastal areas of the island.
Puffin - The Most Popular Icelandic Bird and a Favorite of Birders
The most common bird associated with Iceland is the puffin, a small and adorable creature with a very distinct appearance. It is very popular as a symbol of Iceland, despite being just one of the hundreds of bird species found here. Their popularity has grown so much in recent years that exclusive puffin watching tours are being offered by many Iceland tourism companies.
Take a look at some very interesting facts about Atlantic puffins found in Iceland -
* Puffins are nicknamed as “sea parrots” or “clowns of the sea” due to their dramatic appearances.
* Iceland’s Atlantic puffins are instantly recognizable due to their bright orange beaks. But the beaks do change their color to dark gray during the winter season. * Puffins are great swimmers that can reach depths of 60 meters under water. They are also fast flyers capable of reaching speeds of 88 kilometers per hour. * Puffins breed during the spring in the coastal areas of Iceland and other Northern Atlantic islands. They do not form nests but dig burrows in the soil of the coastal areas. * Puffins are seabirds belonging to the Auk family that also includes birds like guillemots and razorbills. * Puffins are carnivorous and their diet primarily consists of eels and sea fishes like herring hake.
Why Tourists Love Observing Puffins in Iceland
Every corner of Iceland is beaming with diverse flora and fauna, and so are the water bodies around the island nation. Iceland is known for its majestic horse breeds and the amazing variety of whales frequenting its shores. Yet, the tiny puffin bird is inarguably one of the more popular and widely marketed species here. Countless tourists arrive in Iceland during the spring and summer seasons to get a glimpse of the puffins. It is quite easy to find information about tours that take you to the cliffs and beaches of the island for puffin sightings. The popularity of puffins have skyrocketed in the past few decades. Yet puffins are by no means a recent introduction the island. They have resided and bred along the island’s coasts for centuries.
Iceland tourism has only picked up pace in the past decade. So, most non-dwellers were unaware of the puffin’s existence unlike the locals who are used to seeing them. Tourists who are not native to the Northern Atlantic had very slim chances of coming across puffins in real life. But Iceland’s coastal areas are crowded with a great number of puffins throughout spring and summer. The island nation is considered as the best place for puffin watching in Europe.
Most tourists seem to love these little birds as they are equally adorable and funny to observe. There is just something about puffins that appeals to tourists of all age groups. It maybe the way the puffins move about, their friendly nature, or just how photogenic these birds are. If you are planning an Iceland visit anytime soon, do not miss the chance to capture these birds on camera. You can even get close to these birds as they do not mind. Puffins are friendly birds and echo the friendly spirit of Iceland as a nation. One of the latest Iceland tourism trends is clicking selfies with puffins in the background. You can create an amazing frame with yourself and these cheerful birds. Tour operators across Iceland know just how much tourists love the puffins, and offer attractive tour options focused on them.
Best Places to See Puffins in Iceland
These are some of the top places in Iceland where you can find puffins -
i) Heimaey island, Vestmannaeyjar - It is considered as the puffin capital of Iceland and offers great views of these birds.
ii) Látrabjarg bird cliffs, West Fjords - This is another great place to see large colonies of puffins, razorbills and other popular birds.
iii) Dyrhólaey - Dyrhólaey, situated at a short distance from Reykjavik, is another famous destination for coming close to puffins. iv) Ingólfshöfði - Ingólfshöfði, only an hour and a half from Dyrhólaey, is yet another popular location for spotting puffins. v) Papey Island - This is an excellent place to get friendly with a great number of puffins.
Where you choose to see the puffins might depend on your tour itinerary and the time of year your visit. Puffin tours from Reykjavik and other parts of the island can be availed during the summer months. The best time window for seeing puffins and other birds is between May and August. The large majority of puffins tend to leave for warmer places as summer ends in Iceland.
Whether you want to see the puffins or any other species of birds like the Gyrfalcon, Skua, Tern or Rock Ptarmigan, Iceland is the place to be. Get ready for the birding experiences of a lifetime during your Iceland trip.