Icelandic Birds~

Icelandic waters are teeming with over 300 species of fish, and many marine mammals, but they have only a handful of terrestrial wild animals including reindeer, mink and arctic fox, and 85 species of birds.

The Northern Fulmar is a pelagic bird, meaning they spend their lives at sea, and are capable of diving several meters in pursuit of prey.

They resemble albatross, and have tubular beaks for processing sea water like other pelagic birds, including albatross and petrels.

Very handsome Tufted Ducks are common breeders all over Iceland. This is a female.

Ocean swimming Greylag Geese breed in Iceland, Finland and Scandinavia, and winter in the British Isles.

The Northern Common Sea Eider is the producer of eider-down which is harvested in Iceland by special eider farmers.

Black Headed Gulls are common in Iceland.

This one is a juvenile.

Adaptable Starlings first settled in Iceland in the 1940’s, and now can be seen nesting in Akureyri and Reykjavik.

Cheers to you from beautiful Iceland and her very hardy birds~

216 thoughts on “Icelandic Birds~

  1. Thank you for introducing me to Adaptable Starlings and so many wonders in exotic locales like Iceland. You open up a window into our lovely world with its magnificent inhabitants.
    much love, Linda

  2. Wonderful series of images, Cindy.
    That Tufted Duck looks just like our Hardhead, only different coloured eyes (that I can see).
    Beautiful shot of the Starling – so sharp in focus and great light showing off its feather pattern and colour.

    1. Ducks are amazing because there are so many of them, they are so personable, and most male ducks are just outrageously beautiful. But this female Tufted held her own in the beauty department. The starlings in Iceland just surprised the heck out of me. When I was young, a Starling actually scared me, when it flew into my bedroom. I was quite surprised, and pretty amazed, this plucky bird actually pulled-off relocating to Iceland.

    1. This makes me very happy, because birds actually like you back, and are very interested in you, albeit quite scared of you too. In this way, birds are much like us. Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful thoughts.

  3. Oh, Cindy, I’ve missed your incredible pictures this busy summer. Flying out early tomorrow to Japan for 12 days. I hope I capture moments as fadcinating as these. Love, Sonali xx

  4. It is amazing to see that starlings have invaded that part of the world too! They must rate among the most ubiquitous birds outside of their original range. SUCH beautiful photographs!

    1. I know. I was really impressed with the starlings. I can’t imagine how they survive the winter, but they are supremely adaptable birdies. I will never forget Africa’s various stunning starlings. Thank you for your kind words.

  5. Well Cindy this is like an I-spy challenge as it is 7.15am and I’m drinking tea in Reykjavik while waiting to go on a tour South. I’ll see which ones I can tick off my list….

  6. Lovely photos. I love the soft fold of their feathers that make up their patterns and their beauty. Your photos instil an appreciation for our feathered friends.

  7. Very Nice! Interesting birds and ducks (ok, ducks are also bird). The northern common sea eider face is a bit funny. I have not associated down to any real faces before. Now I do 🙂

    1. Now every time you fall asleep on an eider-down pillow you will think of this mama bird who lined her nest with her own feathers so her ducklings and you would sleep well at night.

    1. Thank you! I grew up by the ocean, surrounded by gulls and seabirds, but gulls are the most puzzling birds for me to correctly identify. First off, they defy regions, and are often where they are not supposed to be, and secondly, there are so many subtypes with such subtle differences between them, that it is easy to mix them up. I am not certain of my identification of either of these gulls, but I did my best. If they are some different subtype, I hope someone more knowledgeable tells us all!

  8. I can’t believe European starlings can survive in Iceland’s harsh climate! Do they migrate during the winter? If so, I wonder how they learned when and where to fly to? We tend to put down common animals, but the adaptability of creatures like starlings and house sparrows is quite remarkable.

    I also wonder how land-based animals made it to Iceland, given the fact that it’s an island. Perhaps they walked along ice sheets during Earth’s frozen past?

    1. Well the land based animals are mink (imported) rats and mice (stowaways) reindeer and rabbits brought in, foxes may have been stowaways too, I don’t know, or as you say they could have floated or walked over on pack ice. There are unique species of foxes on California’s Channel islands that got there somehow and evolved in isolation too. Polar Bears occasionally swim to Iceland and are routinely shot for their trouble, which I know you and I both feel the same about. I agree with you, the starlings are just amazing. Maybe they got upset by WWII and relocated to a quieter place, or maybe they got blown there in a storm, but I agree with you, the fact that they survive and set up breeding colonies in Iceland, is just proof of their adaptability and hardiness. People often devalue highly adaptable and successful animals and birds, but I don’t.

  9. Each bird is so beautiful. Their sweet faces and lovely feathers as gorgeous. I was amazed to see the Starling. They used to be everywhere, around here, but I don’t see them any longer. Your photographs are truly wonderful. Thank you so much.

    1. It amazes me they somehow got blown to Iceland, liked the real estate and decided to stay and thrive, despite the harshness of the winters. Maybe they failed to pack a map. They really are adaptable birds. This one kept hiding his head behind leaves, thinking I couldn’t see him, since he couldn’t see me. My cat Herbert does the same thing.

    1. By the time I arrived in Iceland which was late August the nesting was over, and puffins and many other birds had left. Many birds leave before winter and head south. Some stay year round, many at sea.

  10. Did you use a telephoto lens, Cindy? I can’t imagine these beautiful birdies would let you get that close to them — such detail! And not one of them looks dirty, too — imagine that!!

    1. Yes, I use a variable telephoto for birds that is up to 1200mm equivalent. All of these birds except the starling spend lots of time in the water so that might explain their well washed look, although I can’t recall seeing many dirty birds!

    1. Yes, they are famous for this oily fish gunk they will regurgitate towards you, if get to close. Penguins do this too. How remarkable that you saw this! Although it probably didn’t feel so remarkable at the time! 😉

            1. Oh my! She was four wheeling in a mini! She must have been a formidable nurse. After going through such travail to reach her patient, the illness would have no chance against her!

  11. Thanks for the tour of Icelandic birds, Cindy. I spent my afternoon writing outside while being entertained by nuthatches, chickadees, western tanagers and Stellar jays. A good time was had by all. 🙂 –Curt

        1. I miss deer. The coyote packs out here make them unwelcome. I have learned to respect the coyotes. They are such adaptable and survivable wild wolf dogs. Now we know they share much of their DNA with wolves. They sing me to sleep every night, multiple times, as they kill things. At least they are honest about it.

          1. I like coyotes, Cindy. Once I sat down and howled with one. We were playing peek-a-boo on the American River Parkway. It would come out on the trail and stare at me and I would hide. Then I’d come back out and it would hide. Finally it sat down on the trail and just began howling. So I sat down on the trail and howled back. We had quite a discussion. 🙂 –Curt

            1. Ha Haaaah!! Sounds like yotes! When I first moved to The Holler I was terrified of them. 10 years later, I respect them, and know how to live amongst them. We howl back and forth regularly. I have a pretty decent howl I will have you know.

              1. Grin… probably better than mine, Cindy! I suspect we have one around here now, since the deer and the turkeys have made themselves scarce over the last few days. Or possibly a cougar. –Curt

  12. Cheers back to you from Canada, growing colder, but not quite Iceland, and with Canada Geese.
    Cindy, I always learn a lot from your blog. Thank you!!

        1. Hopefully belugas, arctic owls and all sorts of other critters too. We’re going to rent a cabin in the forest outside Winnipeg too, so can’t wait to see what pops by to say hi?

  13. Great light for those birds (most of the folks whom we know who traveled to Iceland enjoyed rain, rain, rain.) We are exchanging Fall for Spring in Peru. See you in photoland soon. – Oscar

    1. Iceland was anticipating winter when we were there. Too late to see the puffins. I was blown away by the eider, a juvenile, she still had some down left, and with careful, pauses and very slow steps, she let me get close. I was even more amazed by getting close to pelagic birds. I shouldn’t have been so surprised. In Antartica the wild birds and animals are not at all afraid of us, because they don’t see us. In Iceland, the birds don’t see many of us, so they know enough to be afraid, but not too much. This says too much about us for me to want to think about.

  14. You must do a lot of research or know an awful lot about all those unusual birds. They are all beautiful creatures and you capture them so well. I fell like I’m sitting there watching.

            1. Yes. I know. Even though I love the minis so much. They have moved the cattle off the nature preserve and we are exploring the 1200 acres. There are cattle bones everywhere, and coyote bones too. It is such a wild place, untouched by humans.

  15. Bonjour ou bonsoir BELLE CINDY
    Que le temps passe vite
    Il nous dépasse
    On voudrait parfois qu’il s’arête
    On ne peux le contrôler
    Ca ne sert à rien de le défier
    Le temps est là pour nous dire que l’on prends de l’âge
    Il nous reste qu’à l’accepter
    De profiter des beaux moments de la vie
    Et de vivre chaque instant présent
    Moi je profite de te dire
    Belle journée ou belle soirée
    Gros bisous , Bernard

  16. Beautiful bird photos, Cindy! I didn’t have much luck even seeing birds on our trip to Iceland last year, but my friends and I met a guy whose family owned the islands where the eider ducks live, and they harvest the down. He didn’t volunteer to take us on a tour, darn it. I would love to return to Iceland, hoping for a lot less rain. I really wanted to see puffin most of all.

    1. Yes, we missed the puffins too. They leave mid-August and we came just after they left. I think we’re going back, but we’ll be too late for the puffins again, but maybe we’ll see them earlier farther south. Puffins are now on my agenda too!

  17. hutschi

    HI Cindy, I like your pictures very much and showed them to my wife.
    We were in Iceland some years ago and it was impressive.
    We saw some of the birds and they are really exotic compared with birds in Germany.
    Thanks for providing the pictures.

    Viele Grüße

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