It is an overstatement to call the raven ‘Icelandic.’ Fortunately, ‘Corvus corax‘ is found in many countries around the world. But still, there is something Icelandic about this tough bird. I find it amazing that the raven chicks are hatched in May when it is often freezing, especially at night. A notable enemy of raves are falcons which sometimes steal their nests. However, it is humanity that is the worst enemy of ravens. Sadly, humans kill thousands of ravens every year here in Iceland. But still, the raven soldiers on, hunted by falcons or humans, in blizzard or sunshine.

What is the best season to go bird watching?

Summer: The optimum time to go birdwatching is between May and June. Iceland during the summer months hosts a large variety of migrant birds. Many species become visible as they mate and mark or defend their territories.

Winter: You may get lucky in the West and South coastal areas in Iceland. Speciality species, such as Harlequin Ducks, and small rafts of Eiders, Scaups and Mergansers have been sighted by keen birdwatchers. White-winged gulls are common during this time. The Selfoss/Pingvallen area is a great place for winter birdwatching.

national bird of iceland
national bird of iceland

Iceland’s National Bird

The popularity of the Atlantic puffins may have you believe they are the national bird of Iceland. However, Iceland’s national bird is, in fact, the Gyrfalcon. The Gyrfalcons are the top predators in the sky known for their lethal precision hunting skills. They mainly eat seabirds, waterfowl, and sometimes rabbits. The Gyrfalcon skills made them a valuable falconry export from the medieval era. These are powerful birds that entice bird watchers from all over the world to come study in person.

Gyrfalcons are the largest falcons in the species. Male gyrfalcons have a wingspan of 48 to 61cm (19 to 24 inches. However, the female gyrfalcons are interestingly larger with a wingspan of 51 to 65cm (20 to 24 inches). They are found throughout the Arctic region but mainly in Iceland. Their plumage is different per location and can be brown, black, white, dark grey or silver. Gyrfalcons are unique because they lay their eggs inside cliff faces and rocky holes. Then they produce 3 to 5 eggs per breeding season.

Since Gyrfalcons nest inside cliffs, in Iceland they are mostly located in the Highlands, and the East Fjords and West Fjords. Gyrfalcons are also found in the North, like at the picturesque Vatnajökull National Park, which has the famous Dettifoss waterfall. Dettifoss waterfall is said to be the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe. Visiting these gorgeous sites to witness the majestic Gyrfalcon take flight is a memory of a lifetime.