Bird watching in the Faroe Islands

March 16, 2016 | Visit Faroe Islands

Puffins in the Faroes.

Binoculars at the ready!

Visit the wild Faroe Islands to see more than 300 species of feathered friends…

Last year (October 2015), puffins were given the same conservation status as the African elephant and lion, after falling victim to a combination of over fishing and climate change. However, they’re one of the most numerous bird species in the Faroe Islands (second only to Fulmars), and more than one million are thought to breed across the 18 rugged isles each year.

The Faroe Islands provides a home to hundreds of other breeds, too, and a total of 305 bird species have been recorded since 1 January 2012. To showcase the varied birdlife, Visit Faroe Islands has published a new ‘Birds of the Faroe Islands’ brochure, to give keen birders (and those interested in nature) more information about possible sightings.

Start with these six…

Puffins (Fratercula arctica)

Atlantic puffins are now listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species for birds, and are more endangered than the humpback whale. However, circa one million are thought to breed on the Faroe Islands each year – they dig nesting burrows on steep, grassy slopes. With bright red, orange, yellow and black bills, they have been called the parrots of the sea. Primarily summer visitors, the best place to see them is on the islands of Mykines and Mykineshólmur.

Oyster Catcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

Oyster Catcher.jpg smallerThe national bird of the Faroe Islands is a common breeder in heathland, and walkers are likely to encounter them throughout the spring and summer months. A very protective bird, the Oyster Catcher is likely to chase anyone who gets too close, so it is best to steer clear of the nesting areas. However, their defensive nature encourages more small birds to breed in the vicinity, as it means additional protection for them. On 12 March, the Faroese hold a celebration called Grækarismessa to coincide with the arrival of the Oyster Catcher and the beginning of the spring and summer months.

Gannet (Morus bassanus)

The largest breeding bird in the Faroe Islands (with a wing span of nearly two metres), the Gannet only nests on the islands of Mykines and Mykineshólmur, and on two sea stacks just off the westernmost coast. They lay eggs in early May and the chicks hatch at the beginning of September. Gannets can be seen year round, but numbers are generally lower during the winter. 

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)Whimbrel - Faroes

The Whimbrel is a common breeding bird in the Faroe Islands, and visits during the summer months. Part of the wader family, it has long legs and an elongated bill that curves near the tip, ideal for foraging for food. Each year, it journeys from South Africa to the Faroe Islands, and the locals know when it has arrived as it gives a fast, rippling whistle that can be heard over long distances. 

arctic skuaArctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus)

This aggressive summer visitor breeds in loose colonies in the heathland, away from human settlements. The Arctic Skua steals most of its food from other birds, by forcing them to give away the catch that was meant for their own chicks. They do this by chasing and harassing the other birds until they drop their food. They range from dark brown to black, and some have white bellies.

Razorbill (Alca torda)

This striking black and white seabird can be seen all-year round, but is scarce in the winter. Because the Razorbill spends so much time out at sea, and only comes to shore to breed, it is greatly affected by fishing nets, declining fish stocks and pollution in the ocean. The best time to spot the Razorbill is between March and July. 

For further information about these birds, and many more, take a look at the new brochure 

Daily flights to the Faroe Islands (London to Vágar Island, via Copenhagen) operate year round and cost from £368 pp return. Twice-weekly direct flights to the Faroe Islands (Edinburgh to Vágar Island) operate from 18 March until mid-December and cost from £199 pp return. Visit www.atlantic.fo for further information.

Choose from a selection of hotels, guesthouses, cottages, self-catering apartments and campsites in the Faroe Islands. Visit www.visitfaroeislands.com/en/where-to-stay/ for further information.

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