Summer in Iceland attracts birds from all over the world. Starting in April, more and more species become visible and up to 388 species have been recorded to date. Birdwatching is a popular activity in Iceland. There are 75 species that breed in Iceland while the rest are vagrants. Icelandic birdlife is particularly rich in seabirds, waders and wildfowl.

Puffins galore

For anyone who loves birdwatching, Iceland is a delight to see our feathered friends. Iceland’s coastline is made up of dramatic cliffs attracting a whole host of birds. One of the most famous and sought-after is the puffin, with it decorative beak and clumsy flying technique. By the middle of August there are an estimated 10 million puffins in Iceland with the world’s largest puffin colony being in the Westman Islands and Breiðarfjörður.

Migrants and protected locals

There are many wetland areas in Iceland, which attract a vast array of birdlife. Most of the species come from Europe, but there are also three North American species that reside in Iceland. The Great Northern Diver, Harlequin Duck and the Barrows Goldeneye are known to only breed in Iceland and are highly sought after by European birdwatchers. The majestic White-tailed Eagle, beautiful Gyrfalcon and the Grey Phalarope are protected species in Iceland, amongst many other species. Along the coastline of Iceland, there are colonies of eider ducks whose downy feathers have been harvested for centuries and their nesting areas highly protected by the locals.

The summer bird choir

The Golden Plover is seen as the harbinger of spring with its arrival in April. By mid-May the countryside is alive with bird song as the calls of the Snipe, Whimbrel and Redwing, amongst others, create an avian choir that fills the air. A large number of species are migratory birds that come with the spring and leave in autumn. Some come to breed, others just to feed, on their way to and from the High Arctic, such as certain geese and waders.


Birdwatching moves to another level at the Flói Bird Reserve near Eyrarbakki in the south west. This wetland is a protected site enabling 70 different species to breed and thrive in peace. Viðey Island is a birdwatcher’s paradise just a few minutes from Reykjavík. A large number of birds breed on this tiny island with focal points being on the isthmus and Þórsnes headland.

Conscious tourism

While enjoying the company of a different species, please remember to practice conscious tourism by respecting nesting areas and throwing rubbish in a bin. Birds do not know the dangers of plastic until it is too late.