When to see

Quick Finder

Search Accommodation

Or
Check-in
Check-out
Room 1
Child Ages
Advanced Search

Search What's On

Or type a Location/Postcode
Start Date
End Date

Search things to do

Or type a Location/Postcode

Search Food & Drink

Or type a Location/Postcode
Watch this video and see some of Scotland's remarkable wildlife, from timourous red squirrels to playful dolphins.
Great Scottish wildlife

See some of Scotland's remarkable wildlife, from timourous red squirrels to playful dolphins.

  • a speckled bird calling with its beak open
    The corncrake (image courtesy of RSPB/ Andy Hay - rspb-images.com)
  • A large bird or prey in flight preparing to land at its nest
    An osprey lands at its eyrie (image courtesy of RSPB/ Chris Gomersall - rspb-images.com)
  • Puffins peruse their surroundings from a rock in the Outer Hebrides © Maramedia
    Puffins gather in the Outer Hebrides © Maramedia
  • A red deer stag at the Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie, Highlands
    A red deer stag at the Highland Wildlife Park, Highlands
  • A seal pub relaxes on the sand © Maramedia
    Seal pup © Maramedia

The diversity of the Scottish landscape, with its thousands of miles of coastline, beautiful mountains and expansive forests and glens, is a real haven for wildlife.

From migrating seabirds to the autumnal stag rut, there is an abundance of wildlife to enjoy throughout the year. Each Scottish season offers different opportunities to experience these wonderful animals.

Spring

Spring sees large numbers of wildlife making a welcome return to Scotland to breed.

Ospreys make their way back from southern climes around Africa during late March and April (leaving again in August and September), and can be spotted both in the Highlands and the Scottish Borders.

Meanwhile, male capercaillies, Scotland’s rarest grouse, gather at traditional breeding sites, known as leks, throughout the areas of Caledonian pine forest, particularly within the Cairngorms National Park. They woo the females with a distinctive call that cannot be heard by humans.

Seabird colonies come alive with thousands of seabirds during springtime, and the areas around Noss in Shetland and the Bass Rock, off East Lothian are key colonies. Species to look out for include gannets, fulmers and guillemots. The Isle of May in the Firth of Forth and and St Abb’s Head off the Scottish Borders coast also welcome thousands of razorbills and puffins every year.

Highlights

Thousands of pairs of breeding wading birds, including the lapwing can be found in the machair of the Outer Hebrides, around Barra and Uist.

Summer

Head for ‘Scotland’s dolphin coast’ on the Moray Firth and take a boat tour to spot bottlenose dolphins pursuing fish shoals.

Over on the west coast, minke whales can be found around the Isle of Mull and the Hebrides, with orcas regularly spotted in the Minches. Further north in the waters off Shetland, humpback whales can be found playing close to the shore.

Also on the west coast, the endangered corncrake, identified by a rasping cry, is often spotted around the island of Coll and the Western Isles.

Back on the mainland, look out for red squirrel litters, red deer calving and osprey chicks during the summer months. Speyside and Perthshire are key areas where these newborns can be found.

Highlights

Follow the progress of osprey chicks via webcam at the RSPB Loch Garten nature reserve.

Autumn

From wildlife migration to the transforming colour of the land, a real sense of change sweeps across Scotland’s natural environment in autumn.

One of nature’s most fascinating sights is the autumnal red deer rut, is when stags battle it out to mate with their female counterparts (hinds). It is a loud and often violent ritual which sees stags lock antlers and the strongest stag may breed successfully with up to 20 different hinds in one year. Key areas where this can be witnessed are the Hebridean islands of Jura and Rum, Highland Perthshire and the Galloway hills.

Also in Dumfries & Galloway, the salt marshes and mud flats of the Solway Coast are where an entire breeding population of barnacle geese which number up to 25,000 congregate. Look out for Icelandic whooper swans and pink-footed geese at nature reserves in Caerlaverock and Mersehead.

Highlights

Look out for the fur-coated seal pups that nestle beside the adults by the shores around Oronsay and the Monach Isles on the west coast.

Winter

From the bitterness of the snow-swept Arctic Cairngorm plateau to the milder south-western coastline, Scotland’s winter climate is diverse.

The mountains of the Highlands are home to one of the hardiest birds in Scotland. Reflecting its winter habitat, the plumage of the ptarmigan is completely white. In the region’s glens and forests, the courting season begins for red squirrels and wildcats have a very distinctive screeching mating call which can often be heard on still nights.

In the Cairngorms in particular, reindeer can be spotted who start to shed their antlers at this time.

At lower levels across Scotland, specifically around Spey Bay, the Montrose Basin and around the Solway Firth, huge numbers of geese, swans and ducks can be found. During January and February, look out for the impressive sight of courting ducks including mergansers, goldeneye and eider.

Highlights

Towards the end of winter, mountain hares moult their white camouflage winter coat to reveal a brown coat for spring.

For more information about where to view wildlife in Scotland, visit Wild Scotland and the Scottish Seabird Centre.

Share