Bird watching Faroes

The Faroe Island may be located in a rather inconvenient place for human visitors – let’s face it, you’re hardly likely to pop in on your way to somewhere else. For birds however, it’s an altogether different matter. The islands’ isolated location some 200 miles north of the Scottish mainland, right in the line of the Atlantic jet stream, makes them a favourite summer spot for an huge variety of migratory birds. While there are around 40 species of common breeding birds, somewhere between 250 and 300 species have been spotted over the years on the islands.

Common sightings

Everybody loves puffins, and the Faroe Islands serve them up in their thousands (quite literally, but that’s another topic entirely). From spring until the end of the short summer the puffin is a frequent sight along the cliffs, flapping its tiny wings furiously while collecting fish for its young. While the most instantly recognisable even to those who don’t consider themselves bird watchers, puffins are just one of several species that make their home along the steep cliffs of Mykines. While puffins tend to make their nests in the wild grass at the top of the cliff, the razorbills, kittiwakes and guillemots can be seen nesting in the most precarious spots in the sheer rock faces along the coast.

Which islands?

You’re never far from a great bird watching site in the Faroe Islands, although it’s worth the journey to the remote islands to see some of the more remarkable sightings. If you go to the southernmost island of Suðuroy, its western coast is home to impressive populations of fulmars (100,000 pairs), guillemots (over 30,000 pairs) and puffins (over 20,000). The cliffs here are probably the most accessible from land, making it a great spot for photographers looking for steady ground from which to shoot. The Vestmanna cliffs, on the island of Streymoy, are another good bird watching site and are best reached by boat excursions that run regularly during the tourist season. For encounters with great skuas meanwhile, head for the island of Skúvoy, where there are 25 breeding pairs. If you’ve never met a skua, simply walk anywhere near its nest and it will soon appear, swooping down to attack your head. From first-hand experience I can confirm that while they don’t inflict a lot of damage they will certainly give you a fright.  (As a side piece of trivia, the entire population of Skúvoy fell to bubonic plague in the 14th century, apart from one woman. You can still find her cottage today).

Planning your Faroes Itinerary

Keen bird watchers will want an itinerary that takes in these and other good sites around the Faroe Islands. But even for those with a passing interest in birds, a visit to some of the remote islands, where birds far outnumber the human population, is a great way to see the wilder side of this beautiful part of the world.