Orkney Seals

Orkney is an internationally important breeding site for two species of seals – the grey and the common seal.  These charismatic creatures are both friendly and inquisitive, but it's best to steer clear of mothers with pups.  You are certain to spot seals here basking on skerries at low tide, or even have them follow you in the water as you walk along the shore.  If you whistle or sing it helps with the Pied Piper effect.  Both grey and common seals make their home in Orkney.

Grey seals are the heavier of the two and give birth to their milky white pups from October onwards.  The pups remain on land to suckle for 18-21 days to put on fat for the cold winter at sea.  They have a Roman nose and females live for about 35 years and males for 25.  Fifteen per cent of the world population of grey seals are in Orkney.  There were about 25,000 in Orkney in 2007.  They favour isolated skerries and beaches and can be seen spread out from one another while basking.

Common seals are less common than grey seals.  They are smaller and have their pups around June and July.  These pups can go to sea almost immediately.  This species spends days at sea feeding but there are plenty of haul-out areas to spot them on when they come ashore.  Just listen out for their mournful, haunting cry.  Females live for about 30 years and males for 20.

The number of common seals has declined in Orkney by around 50% in the past ten years, and no one is certain what has caused this.  Presently, there are about 7,000 common seals here.

Orkney folk legends tell of the magical race of selkies – seals in Orcadian dialect.  It is said they shed their sealskins on Midsummer’s Eve, and became beautiful seal folk who bewitched humans.

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Orkney Seals photos from flickr
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2 Gibbula cineraria. Menai Strait, Wales. February 2014.
Linda McBride - RT @BBCScotlandNews: The Scottish Wild Salmon Company withdraws its application to cull seals at the #Ythan Estuary http://t.co/n67nYRdhER
BLADERUNNERcity - RT @TheSealsOfNam: A fishing firm which was planning to cull seals at a prominent Aberdeenshire colony has withdrawn its application http:/?
Chris Tweed - Seeing the Seals in the sanctuary at Mablethorpe on Sunday makes me want to return to Holm of Papay #Orkney https://t.co/j8JHbGP0GY
Barry Gordon - @Jenni_Fagan @brianjaffa I can put you in touch with the guy who owns the island. It's between Orkney & Caithness. Seals will sing to you.
Earthrace UK - Should bloody well think so too! The license to shoot seals wasn't to protect farmed salmon - it was to get rid... http://t.co/zUjcQj5x3U
Tina Anelante - RT @TheSealsOfNam: A fishing firm which was planning to cull seals at a prominent Aberdeenshire colony has withdrawn its application http:/?
Google News
Ythan Estuary seal cull application withdrawn
A fishing firm which was planning to cull seals at a prominent Aberdeenshire colony has withdrawn its application. The Montrose-based Scottish Wild Salmon Company had asked Marine Scotland for permission to shoot seals on the Ythan Estuary.
BBC News
Remote, oil-rich Shetland elbows way into Scotland vote
As the Scottish independence vote nears, Shetland's council has joined forces with two other island councils, Orkney and the Western Isles, to ask for greater control of local services and new fiscal arrangements to enable them to benefit from the oil ...
Oman Daily Observer
Power from the oceans: Blue energy
?It has proved harder than people had expected at the start, but it has also proved possible,? says Neil Kermode, managing director of the European Marine Energy Centre, the leading test facility for wave- and tidal-energy devices in the Orkney Islands ...
Saved by the Seal-Folk: The Secret of Roan Inish in Rosendale
Originally set in Scotland, the narrative is based on folklore of the Orkney and Shetland Islands in which many fishing and seafaring families claim descent from the Selkies or Seal-Folk: skin-changers who can dwell beneath the waves as seals or walk ...
Almanac Weekly