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Birding in Reykjanes peninsula

Iceland is known for its unique landscape, little spoiled nature and its bird fauna has long been a subject of interest. It is an island of very few predators and is therefore important for breeding bird species. With warmer spring the migrating bird species come in from Europe and breed over the summer while the more arctic species migrate from the north and spend the winter around the Icelandic coast.

What to expect

Iceland has 75 regular breeding species and number of occasional nesting bird species. Total number of birds species in wintertime in Iceland is around 40 - 50. Although Iceland's bird fauna may not be species-rich, it is in many ways unique. Iceland is home to very large seabird-, wader- and waterfowl- populations. Indeed, some populations are so large that a significant part of the entire world population for a given species is found here in Iceland. For example half of the European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria), Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), Redshank (Tringa totanus), 40% of the Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) population and a big portion of the Pink-Footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus). Many species have their names drawn from the fascinating land out in the north Atlantic. Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) for example has never bred in Iceland but stays here over the winter. The Nearctic Red Knot (Calidris canutus islandica) migrates to the breeding sites in northern Greenland and the Canadian high arctic with a stop for food in the west part of Iceland along with other arctic breeding migrants. Sightings of around 400 bird species have been confirmed to date within Iceland, many of which are common or rare vagrants. With all these vagrant, transit birds, breeding and wintering species the Reykjanes peninsula is an ideal birdwatching area.

This website and our published birding map describes sites that are good for birdwatching and gives information about how to get there and where to find scares species that are frequently seen in the area.

Time for birding

The best time for a birding trip depends on the goal. If you are in Iceland for breeding species then late May to June is the best time when all migrants have arrived and birds are conspicuous, defending their territories. If the goal is however to try out for new rare American species for your western Palearctic list we recommend that you put on your raincoat and come in the period from September to November. The website and map focuses on where one could find scarce species such as Harlequin Ducks(Histrionicus histrionicus) or Great Northern Diver (Gavia immer), but the more common species, for example Meadow pipits (Anthus pratensis) and Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria), are not mentioned as they are very easy to find in many areas.

Access to sites

Accessibility to most of the birding spots is good as most roads are paved, unpaved roads are specially marked. Concerning gear, good binoculars are necessary but a spotting scope is always useful.

Walking is permitted on uncultivated land. However, please avoid taking shortcuts over fenced areas, pastures and private plots. Follow the rules in areas under special wildlife or vegetation protection. Follow marked footpaths, where they exist. These paths make for a safer trip, as well as reduce wear and tear on sensitive natural elements.

Landowners may not hinder passage of walkers alongside rivers, lakes and ocean, or on tracks and paths. There should be a gate or stile close to any hindrances.

Birding in Reykjanes peninsula
GPS Points N60° 11' 54.335" W28° 0' 57.426"

Travel directory for Birding in Reykjanes peninsula

The official travel index of Iceland

The Reykjanes Peninsula

Towns & Villages

Visitors to Iceland who arrive via Keflavik International Airport on the Reykjanes Peninsula may be somewhat surprised by the landscape that greets their eyes as they touch down in Iceland for the very first time. A seemingly endless, green-grey moss-topped lava field blankets the peninsula for as far as the eye can see, and it is this strange and rather other-worldly sight that is your first glimpse of the land of fire and ice. 

Map Garður Sandgerði Reykjanesbær Vogar Grindavík