The Scottish Isles hold a world of delights from stunning natural landscapes to an array of wildlife. From the highlands to the isolated islands of Shetland and Orkney, if you’re heading on a Scottish adventure with AE Expeditions you’re in for an incredible time.

However, if you’re a birding enthusiast, Scotland also holds a special surprise in the range of birdlife that call this region home. Here are a handful of the birds to look out for in the Scottish Isles.

Black Guillemots (cepphus grylle)

These almost all-black birds are a common feature of the Scottish skies. It is easily identifiable by its jet black plumage with striking white patches on the wings and bright red feet. This medium-sized water bird can usually be found either alone or in pairs, and tends to prefer shallower waters.

Black guillemots can often be spotted in the northern isles and the sea lochs of west Scotland, and will forage for food while swimming underwater. Its thin, straight bill is suited for its diet of fish and crustaceans.

Puffins (fratercula arctica)

These birds are unmistakable, and a true trademark of Scotland. With their bright orange feet and colourful beak, as well as its black wings and white chest, puffins are an attraction for explorers discovering the Scottish isles.

The puffin’s compact body makes it a naturally gifted diver, but when it takes flight, this bird’s wings must work hard to stay airborne. With their distinct colouring, puffins are often referred to as the ‘clowns of the sea’, a moniker enforced by the puffin’s characteristic rolling walk. You can learn more about the puffin in our fact file here.

Northern fulmar (fulmarus glacialis)

This gull-like bird glides through the air on stiff wings, maintained by shallow wingbeats as it flies low over the ocean. Related to the albatross, the Northern fulmar has grey and white plumage on the top and underside of its body, respectively.

Interestingly enough, the Northern Fulmar used to be relatively rare in the United Kingdom – about 100 years ago, there was only one colony of fulmar situated on St Kilda, according to the National Trust for Scotland. Fortunately, the population has since expanded, and you can spy these birds across the isles, particularly around Shetland.

Great Skuas (catharacta skua)

Also known as bonxies, these great birds are considered the pirates of the sky. A powerful predator, the skua is known to attack other birds for their prey, not balking at the prospect of targeting large birds suck as gannets.

The skua’s plumage is a mix of light and darker brown tones, with some white flashes visible on its wings while in flight. A mid-sized bird, the skua comes in smaller than the great black-backed gull, and can be seen abundantly around Foula island.

Northern gannets (morus bassanus)

While gannets can be found around the world in different variations, the largest concentration of northern gannets can be found in Scotland.

Britain’s largest seabird, the northern gannet has bright white plumage and a long neck that allows them to dive into the water at a blinding speed of around 95 km/h. Northern gannets are also discernable by their long tail, black colouring on their wingtips and yellow patches on their head.

For your chance to encounter these, and other amazing birds in the Scottish Isles, enquire about our Wild Scotland voyage today.


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