Join us as we take a closer look at 10 different species of birds of prey that you can spot in Iceland.
Journey with us to the land of fire and ice, where geysers roar, glaciers glisten, and birds of prey rule the skies. This guide explores the fascinating world of 10 Icelandic raptors. We’ll delve into each bird’s distinct appearance, diet, and the ideal places to spot them in Iceland’s unique landscapes. Buckle up and let’s take flight!
1. White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)
Known as the “King of Icelandic Birds,” the White-tailed Eagle is Iceland’s largest bird of prey. With its broad wings, white tail, and piercing eyes, this bird is truly majestic. Look for them along the coastlines or near lakes and rivers, where they dine on fish, birds, and even carrion. The Westfjords and Breiðafjörður islands are prime eagle-spotting locations.
2. Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
Although less common in Iceland than the White-tailed Eagle, the Golden Eagle is no less impressive. These powerful raptors, known for their golden-brown plumage, can be found in the highlands, where they prey on ptarmigans, hares, and even young lambs. Look for them in remote, mountainous areas, such as the East and West Fjords.
3. Merlin (Falco columbarius)
The Merlin, or “Stone Falcon,” is a small, agile bird of prey that inhabits both lowland and highland areas. With its blue-grey back and buff-streaked underparts, this falcon is a beautiful sight. It feeds mainly on small birds, which it catches in mid-air after a high-speed chase. You might spot a Merlin almost anywhere in Iceland, from the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to the Vatnajökull National Park.
4. Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus)
The Gyrfalcon is Iceland’s largest falcon, with a striking appearance that varies from almost pure white to dark grey. It can be seen throughout the country, hunting birds and small mammals in diverse habitats such as lowland plains, coastal cliffs, and the central highlands. Þingvellir National Park and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula are great places to observe this magnificent bird.
5. Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
The Eurasian Sparrowhawk is a small, agile bird of prey that can be found in forests and woodland areas throughout Iceland. They have a distinct barred appearance with males showcasing blue-grey upperparts and females a brownish tone. These skilled hunters primarily feed on smaller birds, which they catch with a swift, surprise attack.
6. Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
The Northern Goshawk, a larger cousin of the Sparrowhawk, is a powerful and secretive bird of prey. With their slate-grey upperparts and barred underparts, these robust hunters are a sight to behold. They primarily prey on birds and small mammals, often ambushing them from a hidden perch. While they’re elusive, your best bet to spot them is in the woodlands of East Iceland.
7. Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
The Common Kestrel, with its reddish-brown plumage and long, pointed wings, is a frequent sight in Iceland’s lowland areas. This adaptable bird of prey feeds on small mammals and insects, often hovering in the air before diving down to catch its prey. Look for them in farmlands and open grasslands, particularly in the southern parts of Iceland.
8. Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
The Common Buzzard is a medium-sized bird of prey that can be found in various habitats across Iceland. With its broad wings and rounded tail, the Buzzard is a master of soaring flight. They primarily feed on small mammals, birds, and carrion. Look for them in the lowlands, particularly in the North and East Iceland.
9. Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus)
The Rough-legged Buzzard is a winter visitor to Iceland, recognizable by its feathered legs, light underparts, and dark “wrist” patches. They prefer open areas such as tundra and marshes, where they hunt for small mammals. Try your luck spotting these birds in the winter months in the northern parts of Iceland.
10. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
The Peregrine Falcon, known for being the fastest bird in the world, can also be found in Iceland. Sporting a blue-grey back, barred white underparts, and a characteristic black “hood,” this bird is a skilled hunter, often taking other birds in mid-air. They favor sea cliffs and mountainous areas, so places like the Westfjords and the South Coast are ideal for spotting these swift predators.ce. Males have a gray head, a brown body with black wingtips, and a white rump, while females are predominantly brown with a cream-colored head. These harriers inhabit wetlands and marshes, where they hunt small mammals, birds, and amphibians. Prime locations to observe Marsh Harriers in Spain include the Ebro Delta, Doñana National Park, and the wetlands of Castilla-La Mancha.