Birds and birdwatching in the Faroes
Photo by webax.it on Flickr
There are an estimated 2 million pairs of birds on the Faroe Islands. The largest change in recent times was the huge invasion of the Fulmars in the early 19th century. Fluctuations in the seabird populations stem from a variety of natural causes, and in general the populations have seen a decrease since the late 1950s. In the 1980s and early 1990s there was a scarcity of food in the seas around the Faroe Islands.
Every year many hundreds of thousands of birds come home to their breeding grounds in the Faroes. Here are some of the annual visitors as listed on the Faroese calendar:
Known in Faroes as the Tjaldur, this distinctive and attractive bird, with its black and white plumage and long orange-red bill, is a familiar sight throughout the islands. If you don’t spot it immediately, it soon draws attention to itself with its piping call. According to the Faroese calendar, the Oystercatcher arrives every year on the 12th March and leave on the 16th of September – amazingly, it is quite punctual. A few though, don’t follow this schedule and can be seen at other times.
A visit to these little known islands is a very pleasant way to spend a summer’s week. Incredible scenery, lots of seabirds and distinctive wildflowers makes this archipelago of north Atlantic islands a naturalist’s gem. Distances are small and the road network is good so we’ll be out and about enjoying the islands’ natural history for much of our time. We’ll also have the chance to visit the world’s largest storm petrel colony on a night-time trip.
In the Faroe Islands there are currently about 110 different species of birds although, including vagrants during the last 150 years, over 260 species have been recorded. There are about 40 common breeding birds, including the seabirds Fulmar (600.000 pairs), Puffin (550.000 pairs), Storm Petrel (250.000 pairs), Black-legged Kittiwake (230.000 pairs), Guillemot (175.000 pairs), Manx Shearwater (25.000 pairs).
Symbolically, the most important of the birds of the Faroe Islands is the Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus). Their annual arrival on about 12 March is celebrated by the Faroese people as the start of spring. For this reason, the Tjaldur (pronounced [?t?ald??]), is recognised as the national bird of the Faroes. However, in numbers, the avifauna is dominated by an estimated two million pairs of breeding seabirds of several species. There are also some resident landbirds and many regular visitors, both passage migrants and breeders, as well as several species recorded occasionally as vagrants, mainly from Europe. The Faroese postal system, the Postverk Føroya, prints stamps portraying Faroe birds.
The Faroese Starling (Sturnus vulgaris faroeensis) is a Faroese subspecies, the largest Starling in the world. It stays on the islands year-round, and thrives in and around human habitation.
Every year many hundreds of thousands of birds come home to their breeding grounds in the Faroes. A variety of other birds, relatively few in number, from the tiny wren to the huge raven, live here permanently in spite of the challenging weather conditions and sparse food resources.