The white tailed eagle (haliaeetus alpicilla) is Iceland’s largest bird of prey. Hunted to the brink of extinction in the 19th century, it has been protected since 1913. Numbers have slowly increased and there are now around 40 breeding pairs. Once common all over the country it is now confined to the west.
The gyr falcon (falco rusticolus), the largest of all falcons, is Iceland’s national bird. Its numbers depend in part on the availability of its main prey, the ptarmigan.
Iceland is one of the last strongholds of this magnificent raptor, which if you’re lucky, can be seen all over the country. The gyr falcon is also protected and it is strictly forbidden to approach the nest sites.
The merlin (falco columbarius) is a lowland bird and can be seen near the coast in autumn as it prepares to migrate to the British Isles for winter. Owls are a rare sight in Iceland. The short-eared owl (asia flammeus) frequents grassland and shrub. We have seen them near Lake Mývatn at dusk. The magnificent snowy owl (nyctea scandica) also breeds in Iceland but we have not been lucky enough to see one.