Birdwatching in Orkney

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  • Close up shot of Arctic Terns in North Ronaldsay
    Arctic Terns, North Ronaldsay
  • Looking across the cliffs to the Kitchener Memorial at the Marwick Head RSPB Reserve, Orkney
    Marwick Head RSPB Reserve
  • Two puffins standing on a rock at Papay, Orkney
    Puffins
  • Birdwatching at Yesnaby, West Mainland
    Birdwatching at Yesnaby, West Mainland

Birdwatching in Orkney offers innumerable opportunities to spot some of Scotland’s most important and interesting species.

From hides and trails of Orkney’s many reserves to the deck of a chartered wildlife operator, spot the many migratory and seabirds that settle in the Orkney archipelago. Although birdwatching can be enjoyed throughout the year, April to July is one of the best times to experience it. The sandstone ledges of the sea-cliff reserves are colonised in early summer by tens of thousands of bird species who settle on the islands to breed, such as fulmars, guillemots, kittiwakes and razorbills.

In autumn and winter Orkney becomes home to 50,000 waders who feed on the islands' shorelines while whooper swans and graylag geese graze in fields inland. Some even more rare migrants can appear almost anywhere during the spring and autumn months, including a sandhill crane and a red-eyed vireo, both from North America. North Ronaldsay, with its bird observatory, is a particular migrant hotspot and well a great place to spot birds at migration time.

The islands are also home to 13 RSPB reserves and 36 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, which include breeding areas for Arctic terns and skuas.

If you're a keen birder - visiting or local - why not post your sightings online at the Orkneybirding forum? This will help others birdwatchers and also add to our conservation knowledge.

Browse our list of providers to plan your birdwatching trip in Orkney today.

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33 results, currently showing 1 to 10
  1. Birsay Moors Nature Reserve - RSPB

    Type

    Nature Centres & Reserves

    Gradings

    Birsay

    In the summer, hen harriers, short-eared owls and Arctic skuas nest on the moorland of this RSPB nature reserve.

  2. Brodgar Nature Reserve - RSPB

    Type

    Nature Centres & Reserves

    Gradings

    Harray

    This RSPB nature reserve beside the iconic Ring of Brodgar draws curlews, lapwings, redshanks, oystercatchers and various other birdlife.

  3. Marwick Head Nature Reserve - RSPB

    Type

    Nature Centres & Reserves

    Gradings

    Dounby

    The RSPB nature reserve of Marwick Head is home to the largest cliff nesting seabird colony on the Orkney mainland.

  4. Cottascarth & Rendall Moss Nature Reserve

    Type

    Nature Centres & Reserves

    Gradings

    Rendall

    Welcome to Cottascarth & Rendall Moss Nature Reserve.

  5. Tour Orkney

    Type

    Tour Guides

    Gradings

    Kirkwall

    Welcome to Tour Orkney

  6. Great Orkney Tours

    Type

    Tour Guides

    Gradings

    Tankerness

    You want to see Orkney but don’t want to be lost in a crowd of other tourists: then a personal tour is just what you’re looking for

  7. Gradings

    Orkney

    Take the ‘Wilderness Walking - The Orkney Isles’ tour with Wilderness Scotland.

  8. Orkney Archaeology Tours

    Type

    Tour Guides

    Gradings

    Birsay

    Orkney Archaeology Tours - for your perfect Orkney holiday. All-inclusive small group holidays & private tours led by archaeologists. Friendly, fun & informative tours with a maximum of 8 participants, based at a comfortable seafront hotel.

  9. Hoy Nature Reserve

    Type

    Nature Centres & Reserves

    Gradings

    Hoy

    Welcome to Hoy Nature Reserve.

  10. Explore Orkney

    Type

    Tour Guides

    Gradings

    Finstown

    Enjoy the wonders of holidays in Orkney with these all-inclusive structured day trips. Uncover fascinating tombs, learn about the Vikings and explore Neolithic sites.

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