Unusually Vibrant Birdlife in Reykjavík

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Unusually Vibrant Birdlife in Reykjavík

Kolgrafafjörður

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Birdlife in and around Reykjavík has been unusually vibrant recently. The reason for this is the shoals of sand eels currently in Skerjafjörður. Sand eels are a prime choice for most seabirds. 

Ólafur Karl Nielsen, ornithologist with the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, told ruv.is that the birds seek out the eels, which have been in every fjord and inlet in the capital area; Kópavogur, Arnarnesvogur, and even as far as Kollafjörður. The seabirds follow this delicacy wherever it goes.

Some of these avian guests are rare in this part of the country, such as the puffin. Reports earlier this month indicated that the Icelandic puffin population was not doing well. In fact according to international standards which dictate that a population suffering more than a 30 percent decrease in a decade qualify as endangered, there is cause for alarm. In 2003 there were eight million puffins in Iceland, but today there are only five million which is a 37 percent decrease. 

The populations most hard hit are those in South Iceland and Vestmannaeyjar (the Westman Islands). In Flatey farmer Magnús Arnar Jónsson says he hardly sees any puffins any more. “Back in the day you could hunt a thousand birds and you’d barely notice a different. Now you don’t dare to take a single bird. This is the fourth year in a row that I haven’t taken any birds, I can hardly remember what it tastes like.”

Further north the puffin is doing much better, but sand eels have thrived in the seas off North Iceland in recent years. 

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