Also known as a teeick in Orkney (and a peewit elsewhere in the country), these are less common than they were, possibly as a result of land drainage, but the breeding population is around 4,000 pairs. During autumn and winter, flocks of up to 500 birds are not uncommon. Many birds leave the islands under snow cover.
The redshank is a medium-sized wading bird, which is well distributed in Orkney's marshland areas, with over 1,500 pairs throughout the islands. It has longish red legs and a long, straight bill. It is grey-brown above and whitish below. In flight, it shows very obvious white rear edges to the wings and a white 'V-shape' up its back. The winter population has been estimated at 7,000 birds.
Also known as a whaup in Orkney, there are around 5,000 breeding pairs, with winter numbers boosted to around 20,000. The curlew is the largest European wading bird, instantly recognisable with its long down-curved bill, brown upperparts and long legs. Nationwide, there have been worrying breeding declines in many areas largely due to loss of habitat through agricultural intensification. You can spot curlews all year round in Orkney.
Snipe have very long, straight bills that they use for probing deep into wet mud. They nest quite commonly in Orkney’s wetlands and also on our wetter moors. There are probably over 3000 pairs nesting in the islands but their numbers are greatly enhanced in autumn when migrants arrive from further north. Snipe have a very distinctive display flight They dive through the air with their stiff outer tail feathers angled out from the rest of the tail. This produces a buzzing noise called ‘drumming’.
This is the commonest wader in Orkney and can be seen almost everywhere except on the moors. An estimated 12,500 pairs nest in the islands drawing attention to themselves by their very noisy behaviour. On the shore, as their name suggests, oystercatchers feed on shellfish but inland, they feed largely on earthworms.
Only a winter visitor, Orkney’s population of purple sandpipers has been estimated at 5-6,000. These spend the winter on rocky seashores feeding on invertebrates. Uncertainty surrounds their migration routes, however. It is possible that their breeding grounds are on Baffin Island in Canada.
Another winter visitor, turnstones are rather commoner than the purple sandpipers but are often found with them feeding on rocky shores and often, as their name suggests, flicking over stones to find their food. Ringing recoveries have shown that at least some of our turnstones come to us from Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic.
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 ...More
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...More
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 ...More
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...More
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...More
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...More
Birds of Prey
Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to EnlargeHen-harrier This is Orkney'...More
Shelduck A mainly black and white duck with a conspicuous chestnut breast band; larger than a mallard but smaller than geese such as greylag and Canada. It has a particularly prominent red bill, bl...More