Birds Birds

Birds in Orkney

The RSPB looks after 13 nature reserves across Orkney, so it’s clear the islands are a very important area for birds. Large numbers pass through in spring and autumn on migration, with a number of rare breeds often making an appearance.

Orkney’s cliffs are home to vast numbers of breeding seabirds during the summer, with Marwick Head and Mull Head on the mainland, and Noup Head in Westray, popular sites for seabird spotting. If you’re looking for puffins, many of Orkney’s huge population are on the inaccessible Sule Skerry, but there are plenty of spots around the islands to catch a glimpse of these charming birds, particularly the Castle o’ Burrian in Westray and Marwick Head on the west mainland.

Waders breed in Orkney’s wetlands and can also be found in the lochans on the moors of the mainland, Rousay and Hoy. The moors are also the place to see hen harriers and short eared owls.

In winter, you’ll find a huge variety of wildfowl on the freshwater lochs and in sheltered sea areas, and in spring you’ll see the ducks in their finest plumage.

Inside Birds

A Fulmar chick after hatching

Fulmars

The fulmar is known as a mallimack or malli in Orkney dialect. Its common names are the Northern fulmar, fulmar petrel or Arctic fulmar and its proper name is Fulmarus glacialis. Orkney is a paradise ...

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Birds

Guillemots

The guillemot (Uria aalge), known as the aak in Orkney, has a dark brown head, neck and upperparts. It has a distinctive white line across closed wings. The bill is black and tapering and legs are dar...

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Razorbills on an Orkney cliff

Razorbills

There are about 10,000 razorbill (Alca torda) in Orkney – a member of the auk family locally called the coulter-neb or sometimes the sea crow (sea craa). They are noisy, quarrelsome birds that nest ...

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An Orkney puffin, with its distinctive beak

Puffins

Everybody’s darling, the puffin, or the tammie norrie as it is affectionately known in Orkney, brings a smile to the face of anyone lucky enough to see it. This small auk is worth seeking out in som...

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A gannet in flight in Orkney

Gannets

This large, bright, attractive bird with black wingtips is known as the solan goose in Orkney. There are 5,000 pairs in Orkney with the largest colony on remote Sule Stack 40 miles west of mainland Or...

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The Great Skua in flight over Orkney

Great Skua

This great pirate of the skies is infamous in Orkney for terrorising anyone who goes near its nest during the breeding season. Always known in Orkney as the bonxie, its dive-bombing tactics around you...

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Birds

Wading Birds

Waxwing in trees in StromnessHerring Gull in flightHeron on a Birsay beachEider Ducks on and Orkney lochA Dunlin on Orkney moorlandAn Oystercatcher on the shoreAn Arctic Tern in flightA Shag perched o...

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Birds

Birds of Prey

Click to Enlarge Waxwing in trees in StromnessClick to Enlarge Herring Gull in flightClick to Enlarge Heron on a Birsay beachClick to Enlarge Eider Ducks on and Orkney lochClick to Enlarge A Dunlin on...

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Birds

Migrating Ducks

Waxwing in trees in StromnessHerring Gull in flightHeron on a Birsay beachEider Ducks on and Orkney lochA Dunlin on Orkney moorlandAn Oystercatcher on the shoreAn Arctic Tern in flightA Shag perched o...

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