Breeding time

Skógarþröstur – Redwing – Turdus iliacus

During the breeding time the Redwing mostly eats worms and insects. At other times of the year it is more into  berries and seeds. Although the Redwing is considered one the Icelandic migrants,  big groups of them stay for the winter.


The Redwing builds its nest in various locations and usually lays 4 to 6 eggs which hatch in about 10 to 14 days. The young leave the nest after about two weeks and depend on the parents for an additional two weeks. Then the female often lays eggs for the second time.


Here you can hear the beautiful song of the Redwing:

The mysterious owl

Owls are mysterious birds often associated with the dusk and night time. They  howl in the night, creating a ghostly atmosphere and are often heard and seen in horror and crime movies.

Brandugla – Short-Eared Owl – Asio flammeus

They are nocturnal creatures and their wide staring eyes lend them not only a ghostly but also a sharp and wise appearance. They have a very good eyesight and can turn their head around so nothing goes unnoticed. Tufts of feathers on the owl’s head lend them a likeness to horned devils and their shrill howls have given them a place in ancient folklore. Owls are both  fascinating and mysterious.

Long distance flier

Kría – Arctic Tern – Sterna paradisaea

Every spring Icelanders eagerly await the coming of the Arctic Tern and its arrival deserves news coverage.  The Arctic Tern is a long distance migrant. Its winter grounds are in the sea around South Africa and Antarctica but it breeds in the Arctic. Can you go any further?


 Most Terns stay near the coast but they also venture inland, even as far as the interior. The Icelandic population is estimated around 500,000 pairs.


Female putting on a show

Maríuerla – Pied Wagtail – Montacilla alba

The Pied Wagtail is back, occupying its usual space in the garden, wagging its tail all over the place and enjoying wholemeal crackers, – its favourite.  A male bird was with her early on but now he is nowhere to be seen.  We have noticed that when her kind fly over she puts on a show. Trying to lure potential males to her she bends low sticking her tail straight up in the air. As far as we know she has not been successful.


She has however been building a nest and in the last few days we have not seen her as often as before. So maybe she has already laid her eggs. We will be on the lookout for Wagtail chicks in the next few weeks.


A lone Siskin

Barrfinka – Siskin – Carduelis spinus

We welcomed a beautiful yellow vagrant in the garden this week. A small Siskin female came and made use of the feed with a group of Redpolls.  It also picked at some insects in the Rowan.


In recent years a few Siskins have bred in South Iceland and this one is probably on its way to its breeding place. Hopefully it will find a mate there.


Battle with an earthworm

Heiðlóa – Golden Plover – Pluvialis apricaria

Golden Plovers can be seen all over the country by now but the first migrants usually arrive from their winter grounds in the British Isles in the end of March.  They are among the best loved Icelandic birds, the migrant that signals the coming of the long awaited spring here in the North.


The Plover’s favourite food is earthworm and this bird had quite a long struggle with his lunch, as can be seen in the photos.


Pectoral Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs

Two American waders together at Breiðabólsstaðatjörn/Álftanes (SW-Iceland), Pectoral Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs

This spring three Lesser Yellowlegs have been spotted in Southwest Iceland.  Lesser Yellowlegs are rare vagrants and until now only 19 birds had been seen here, most of them in the autumn.  Lesser Yellowlegs are breeding birds in North America, and fairly common.

Hrísastelkur – Lesser Yellowlegs – Tringa flavipes

The Pectoral Sandpiper is a more common vagrant in Iceland. It is a breeding bird in North America like the Lesser Yellowlegs.

Rákatíta – Pectoral Sandpiper – Calidris melanotos

Two Lesser Yellowlegs and the Pectoral Sandpiper were in Álftanes yesterday evening.  The Lesser Yellowlegs is a new bird on my list but the Pectoral Sandpiper was already on the list.


Harlequins still here

Straumönd – Harlequin Duck – Histrionicus histrionicus

A group of Harlequin Ducks are on River Ölfusá. They are common here in  April but will leave when it gets warmer and the river becomes muddier because of snow melting in the highlands. Clear spring water rivers are their favourite.


The Harlequin Duck stays in the ocean around Iceland during the winter time but comes inland, on rivers, with the coming of spring.


Breeding has started

Tjaldur – Oystercatcher – Haematopus ostralegus

The Oystercatcher is a common breeding bird in Iceland. Its typical breeding places are  near the sea and lakes in lowlands. The nest is usually in gravel or sand, but sometimes by the side of a road.

This Oystercatcher, that was ringed last summer in Floi Nature Reserve, is back with its siblings

Part of the Icelandic breeding stock goes to the British Isles for  winter and comes back in the middle of March. Now in the beginning of May breeding is already on its way and the first chicks will be arriving in the end of the month.


Ringed Oystercatchers are seen from time to time.  These have mostly been ringed in their winter grounds in The British Isles but some in Iceland in recent years.