Birds in Iceland

Landbirds, non-passerine
(Gallinaceous birds, pigeons, raptors)

The birds accounted for here belong to very different species of which there are not many in Iceland, only around 10 bird species. Of falcons, hawks and eagles there is only one species of each. There are two owl species, of gallinaceous birds there is only the Ptarmigan and of pigeons there is also only the Rock Dove.

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More than half of all birds belong to this group comprising almost 6,000 species. They are sometimes called songbirds or perching birds and are as diverse  and different in size as the Raven and the Goldcrest. The passerines’ feet are designed for perching in trees and their bill adapted to a diet of insects, seeds or like the Raven’s powerful beak for almost anything that can be had.

Only around nine species were breeding birds in Iceland but with increased forestry in the last decades more species have settled here . Passerine birds make their nest with care, lay several eggs and the chicks leave the nest early.

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Gulls (gulls, skuas, terns)Mávar

Here we have grouped together gulls, skuas and terns which are sometimes referred to as shorebirds as are some other birds such as waders.

The gulls have stout bills and webbed feet. Most of these birds have loud wailing or squawking calls. The sexes look the same. They are opportunist that scavenge food and mostly feed on live food such as crabs, small fish, eggs, other birds’ chicks and insects. They usually live near the sea. Their nest is on the ground often in large noisy colonies and they lay two or three eggs.

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Waders (herons, rails, waders)

Waders are long-legged wading birds often with long bills.
They usually live in and around wetlands or coastal environments. Most of the species that live in Iceland are strongly migratory. Some of them are amongst the longest distance migrants. They spend the non-breeding season in the southern hemisphere. Most of them arrive in Iceland in early spring, from March to May and leave in the end of summer or beginning of autumn.

The majority of them eat small invertebrates. Different lengths of bills make it possible for these different species to feed in the same places without competition, especially on the coast.

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Seabirds (auks, cormorants, gannets, tubenoses)

These birds belong to different orders but are grouped together here because they all breed by the sea and live and find food almost entirely on sea. They very often live in bird colonies, cliff colonies, laying just one egg and the chick stays in the nest longer than most birds. Seabirds have a long life, mature slowly and mate for life.

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Waterbirds (grebes, divers, wildfowl)vatnafuglar

Here we group together birds that live in and around fresh water. Seabirds, gulls and waders are not included. A lot of ducks live in Iceland, three species of geese breed here, two species of loons, one of grebes and one Swan specie. All of these live more or less on water, they usually breed by water and usually lay from four to twelve eggs. The Common Loon and the Great Northern Diver lay two eggs. These birds are adapted to life in water, have webbed feet and bills and legs adapted to feed in water. They get all their food in water except geese and the swans which also feed on grass.

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