Puffin in Iceland

Puffins in Iceland

Puffins: Iceland’s Iconic Birds

Puffins are undoubtedly one of the most beloved and iconic birds in Iceland. They are known for their distinctive appearance, with their colourful beaks and bright orange feet. While it is challenging to provide an exact number, estimates suggest that there are several million puffins in Iceland during the breeding season. Since 2000, a sharp population decline has been seen in Iceland, Norway, Faroe Islands, Greenland and in fact all the North Atlantic Region because of diminution in food supply.

Breeding and Nesting Habits

Puffin in Iceland sitting on a nest

Puffins typically arrive in Iceland during late April or early May to breed. They form large colonies, often on steep coastal cliffs or on offshore islands. These colonies are called "puffinries" or "puffin colonies." Puffins are burrow-nesting birds, digging burrows in the soil or using pre-existing caves made by other seabirds. They lay a single egg, which both the male and female take turns incubating.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Puffins are excellent divers and feed primarily on small fish, such as sand eels, herring, and capelin. They have specialized bills allowing them to catch and hold multiple fish simultaneously. Puffins can dive up to 60 meters (200 feet) deep in search of their prey. They can also carry a large number of fish in their beaks to feed their chicks.

Puffin Conservation

Although puffins are not currently considered endangered, they face challenges due to changes in their food availability and nesting habitats. Climate change, overfishing, and pollution can impact their prey populations and breeding success. Iceland has implemented measures to protect and conserve puffins, including designated nature reserves and restrictions on hunting.

Cultural Significance

Puffins hold a special place in Icelandic culture. They have been featured in traditional folklore and have become an iconic symbol of Icelandic nature. Puffin-themed souvenirs, artwork, and even food dishes featuring puffin meat can be found in Iceland.

Puffin Watching

Puffin watching in Iceland

Iceland offers fantastic opportunities for puffin watching. Visiting Iceland during the breeding season provides a unique opportunity to witness these charming birds up close. Puffins' comical appearance, their vibrant beaks, and their clumsy yet agile flight make them a favourite among both locals and visitors, adding to the allure of birdwatching in Iceland.


  1. Dyrhólaey: Located in southern Iceland, Dyrhólaey is a prominent cliff formation known for its puffin colonies.
  2. Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands): This archipelago off the south coast of Iceland is home to one of the largest puffin colonies in the world, with an estimated population of over a million birds.
  3. Látrabjarg: In the Westfjords, Látrabjarg is Europe's largest bird cliff and an important nesting site for puffins. It provides a unique opportunity to observe puffins at eye level.
  4. Papey Island: This small island in eastern Iceland is home to a significant puffin colony. Access to Papey Island is limited, but guided tours are available during the puffin season.


Puffins can be seen in Iceland during the summer months, typically from late April to early August. The peak puffin season is from mid-May to late July when they are nesting and raising their chicks.


Where Can I See Puffins in Iceland?

Iceland offers fantastic opportunities for puffin watching. Dyrhólaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Látrabjarg and Papey Island are the top locations for watching puffins. 

How Many Puffins Are There in Iceland?

It is hard to put an exact number to the amount of puffins in Iceland. It is estimated that there are millions of puffins in Iceland every year. 

What Do Puffins Eat?

Puffins primarily feed on small fish and marine invertebrates.

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