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All You Should Know About the Icelandic Puffin

Each country has its own symbol, official or not. Something that a given country will always be associated with which is relevant only in that country’s context. Usually it is something that only occurs in that country, a traditional product, or a festival, but it can also be an animal. When you think of it now, it makes sense. Australia will be straight away associated with kangaroos and koalas, while China will be connected to pandas. Our small island has many symbols, most of you wil assosiate it with powerful waterfalls. Among other the most famous one is a Icelandic puffin. You will only realize how famous it became when you first step onto Laugavegur street in Reykjavik city. It is the main theme of all the souvenir shops around! Starting from being a logo on t-shirts through all kind of pendants to huge mascots. Every puffin lover will find something here for themselves.

The Icelandic Puffins couple in Latrabjarg cliffs in Iceland

Puffins in Iceland

Puffins in Iceland, to be more concrete, belong to a group of Atlantic puffins. If you are worried that you might have missed them during your Icelandic travel, I assure you, it’s impossible to miss! This is the most recognizable bird in Iceland due to its characteristic look. They are around 30 cm (2 in) tall and weigh up to 600 grams (21 oz). They happen to be excellent aviators and swimmers. They feed mainly on fish, which also makes them great divers. They spend most of their lives in the ocean waters and that’s why the only time you will be able to see them in Iceland is during their breeding season.

These beautiful and colorful birds are examples to follow. They are monogamous. They are very loyal to their companions and stay together for a long time as they can live up to 20 years. When breeding season starts, the male puffin arrives to the island as first to prepare the nest. He always finds the same place he chose last time. He then waits for his partner, if she does not arrive, he eventually looks for a new bird-wife. The female lays only one egg which the parents take care of in turns. When the baby puffin is big enough, he leaves the comfortable nest to spend its first 3 years of his life in the ocean. He does not come back to the island even for one time during these 3 years. When 3 years have passed, he comes back to the cliff to look for a place for his nest.

Where to see puffins in Iceland

As mentioned above, you will only be able to see puffins during their breeding season which comes in summer. If you’re planning to see puffins during your trip, then you should choose dates from mid-May till mid-August. This is the time when they are looking for places for theirs nests on the cliffs.  They spend all  winter away from land. Some of the birds stay in Iceland for a bit longer and if you are lucky enough you will be able to spot some at the beginning of September.

This is probably the moment when you are thinking „So what about the Northern Lights?”. This is true, but you can only have one or the other. The puffins are a great consolation for not seeing the Northern Lights and the other way around.

Icelandic puffin bird seating on the cliffs in summer day in Iceland

There are at least few places where you will be able to observe puffins in Iceland. The most poplar ones are the Latrabjarg cliffs in the Westfjords and Dyrholaey peninsula, which is located in the South. You will be able to observe bird nests and puffins. It is quite easy to take some pictures of these birds as they are almost posing for you. The best pictures you are able to see are while they are flapping their wings. You can take a snap of all their charm then.

The biggest puffins colony in Iceland is on the Westman Islands. The best chance to see the birds in the North Iceland will be in Tjornes Peninsula.

You should approach the birds quietly and slowly to not to frighten them away. Be aware that when one bird moves, the whole colony will fly away. The rest of the observers will not appreciate this. Try not to approach the edge of the cliffs. The bird nests are right on the edge and you can easily destroy the eggs. The baby puffins will even fall down from this height. As mentioned above, puffins are very photogenic and will pose for your pictures but under no conditions should you try to touch them or feed them. They will do without your help, believe me.

Bird Watching in Iceland

For those who do not know where to start with planning your bird watching tour in Iceland we have good news. In Iceland you will find companies who offer guided tours for bird watching. Many of them are the boat tours. The specialized and experienced guides will know exactly where to go and how to approach the puffins so you will enjoy as much as possible out of the trip.

Icelandic puffins colony in Iceland

There are also tours of whale watching connected with puffins which you can rent from Husavik. In this tour you will be taken in a boat through the waters where it is usual to meet  whales up to the island where you will be able to watch one on the largest puffins colonies in Iceland.

You will be able to see both, whales and our colorful birds. Remember to dress properly for the tour as it can get quite cold on the boat. You will need a waterproof warm jacket and a hat. Do not let the cold spoil your trip!

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