About 330 species of birds
have been recorded in Iceland.
Of these only about 85 nest or have attempted to nest, and
about 12 are common passage migrants or winter visitors.
The rest are accidentals and casual visitors.
The last category consists mainly of passerine birds of European
origin, the most common of which are chiffchaffs, willow
warblers, blackcaps, garden warblers, chaffinches,
bramblings, redstarts and robins.
Quite a few of the accidental visitors come from America,
such as parula warblers, America robins, hermit thrushes,
indigo buntings etc.
Species, which are recorded annually, but less than twenty
times a year, include bar-tailed godwit, ruff, grey plover,
goldeneye and American widgeon.
Other regular visitors recorded less than twenty times a
year are seabirds like pomarine- and long-tailed skuas and
sooty- and great shearwaters.
Compared with other European countries, the number of
nesting species is low.
On the other hand, the total number of certain species is so
large, that they fully compensate for the comparatively
small variety. Some of these, such as the puffins, fulmars, kittiwakes and
both guillemots and Brünnich’s guillemots, congregate in
millions around the coast where suitable cliffs are found.
During the 20th century the number of species of nesting
birds has increased considerably, especially because of the
increasing area of woods.
The following breeding birds have colonized since the beginning
of the 20th century:
Shoveler, tufted duck, pochard, lesser black-backed seagull,
herring gull common gull, black-headed gull, short-eared owl
Coot, lapwing, swallow, fieldfare and house sparrow have all made
nesting attempts, but have not yet settled as permanent
Owing to its isolation and to other factors, Iceland is not
fully settled zoologically.
The climate has been becoming gradually warmer since 1920
and, if no reverse change takes place, we may expect further
additions to the list of breeding birds.
Many of the more common birds, such as mallard, golden
plover, ringed plover, whimbrel, redshank, snipe, great
black-backed gull, black-headed gull, arctic tern, meadow
pipit, wheatear and raven are found almost everywhere in the
country, except in the extensive deserts of the interior.
The best time for bird watching in Iceland is the latter
half of May and the firs three weeks in June.
In Reykjavik and other densely populated areas, a few species of
passerine birds can be seen.
A small proportion of the redwing population winters in
Iceland and redpolls are conspicuous at this time of year.
Wrens are frequently seen by the seashore and even in
Reykjavik and other towns.
Thousands of snow buntings enter towns and villages during
severe weather, with the odd merlin in their wake.
The Iceland gyr falcon is often seen during winter near the
seashore and also in towns, particularly when the ptarmigan
population is at its lowest.
Among the passerines, fieldfares and blackbirds are regular
winter visitors, ravens are also very conspicuous at this
Lesser Black-backed gulls are the only gulls which are total
leave in October-November, by which time the Iceland gulls
have arrived from their nesting grounds in Western
Winter waders are confined mainly to the seashore of the
southwest and southeast, purple sandpipers being by far the
They can be seen by the thousands in some areas.
Turnstones are also very common on the shores of the capital
area, and so are oystercatchers and redshanks.
Rarer waders seen in winter are snipes, knots and sanderlings,
the last being very rare at this time of the year.
Regular winter visitors among the waders are curlews, bar-tailed
godwits (even though they do not come in the twenty-record
Grey plovers are seen nearly every year.
Both great northern- and red-throated divers can be watched on
the sea, but mainly in the south.
Many of the ducks are migrants, but more and more of them
stay throughout the winter.
A part of the teal population, for example, is seen pretty
consistently in winter, where ponds and streams are frozen.
Widgeons are very common in the capital area in winter.
Scaup and tufted ducks are now seen annually on the sea
around the Reykjanes Peninsula.
Barrow’s goldeneyes are quite common at the outlet of Lake
The long-tailed duck is very common on the sea around the
country, and the harlequin ducks are also common, mainly in
places, where the sea is rough.
The most abundant duck is,
however, the eider.