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Birding Scotland

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain. It shares a border with England to the south, and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the south-west. In addition to the mainland, the country is made up of more than 790 islands.

Scotland is a fantastic destination for birders, with a wealth of speciality species and an ever changing avifauna to match the seasons. Wild places dominate the country, particularly in the north and west, and the birder who comes to love Scotland will never be short of a rewarding new place to visit, or exciting new wildlife experience to seek.

Pride of place for bird habitats must surely go to the native Caledonian pine forest, and the majesty of the undeveloped high mountain tops and plateaux. Here you will discover some of the last remaining unspoilt habitats on the small island of Great Britain, and the birdlife is of course very special. Others which simply must be visited include the upland moor areas, which give rise to tumbling rivers and streams, the many glens with spectacular scenery and remnants of both pine and deciduous forest, the lowland plains and fertile arable lands, bird-rich estuaries, harbours and coastal stretches, and of course the magnificence of the islands from Islay to the Shetlands. A land of opportunity indeed to every birdwatching enthusiast!

Top speciality birds have to be Capercaillie, Scottish Crossbill, Ptarmigan and Crested Tit, none of which can be found in any other part of the UK – if you keep a British List you have to visit Scotland to see them! There is debate currently about whether Scottish Crossbill would better be classified as Parrot Crossbill, but still a bird well worth looking for!

Other key specialities are Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Black Grouse, Dotterel, Red and Black-throated Divers, Slavonian Grebe and Osprey. A diverse and rewarding list of birds already!

In the summer, breeding visitors to the mainland include Snow Bunting, Short-eared Owl, Long-eared Owl, and a wealth of waders and passerines including Corncrake, Red-necked Phalarope and Ring Ouzel. Seabirds are spectacular from Bass Rock to St Kilda, and skuas, petrels, shearwaters, terns, Gannet and of course auks provide great interest around virtually the entire coast.

In winter months, ducks, divers, geese and gulls can be present in huge numbers at the coast and wet meadows, and during migration Scotland can be the best place in Britain for rarities from east or west. Shetland, North Ronaldsay, the Outer Hebrides and Fair Isle are amongst the best-known spots, but virtually anything on the British List can turn up anywhere!

The Scottish List is far too long to allow me to do credit here, but to further whet the appetite for Scotland, just a few species readily available to the keen birder but not mentioned above include Golden Plover, Red Grouse, Dipper, Hen Harrier, Twite, Corn Bunting, Great Northern Diver, Long-tailed Duck, Velvet Scoter, Manx Shearwater, Black Guillemot, Tree Pipit, Whinchat and Grey Wagtail. One of the best birding places in Europe awaits you!


Kevin Shaw

Heatherlea Birdwatching

Nethy Bridge - Inverness-shire



Number of Species

National Bird: Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos

Number of bird species: 516


Number of endemics: 1

Scottish Crossbill Loxia scotica


iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

Fieldguides & Other Birding Books
For a full list of fieldguides and other books see the general UK page

Best Birdwatching sites in the Scottish Highlands

By Gordon Hamlett | Buckingham Press | 2014 | Paperback | 288 Pages | 218 Colour Maps |

ISBN: 9780956987655

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds in Scotland

by Valerie M Thom | T & AD Poyser Ltd (A & C Black) | 2011 | Hardback | 390 pages, 8 plates with b/w photos; b/w photos, b/w illustrations, b/w distribution maps, tables |

ISBN: 9781408138373

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birdwatching in Scotland

by Paul Doherty | Bird Images Video Guides | 2002 | DVD | Runtime: 108 min |

ISBN: 5065000721022

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Collins Guide to Scottish Birds

Valerie Thom & Norman Arlott | HarperCollins | 2005 | Paperback | 256 pages, Col photos, col illus, dist maps |

ISBN: 0007197373

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Landscapes and Birds of Scotland

(An Artist's View) | by Leo Du Feu | Jeremy Mills Publishing | 2013 | Paperback | 113 pages, colour & b/w illustrations |

ISBN: 9781909837003

Buy this book from NHBS.com

RSPB Handbook of Scottish Birds

by Peter Holden & Stuart Housden | Bloomsbury | 2016 | Paperback | 256 pages, 1000 colour illustrations, colour distribution maps

ISBN: 9781472927286

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Crossley ID Guide: Britain & Ireland

by Richard Crossley & Dominic Couzens | Bloomsbury | 2013 | Paperback | 256 pages, 1000 colour illustrations, colour distribution maps |

ISBN: 9781472927286

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where to Watch Birds in Scotland

by Mike Madders & Julia Welstead | Christopher Helm | 2002 | Paperback | 297 pages, b/w illus, maps |

ISBN: 071365693X

Buy this book from NHBS.com


British Trust for Ornithology - Scotland


BTO Scotland - School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Cottrell Building, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland. Tel: 01786 466560 Email: scot.info@bto.org

Raptor Persecution Scotland


We created this blog for one simple reason. That is to highlight the relentless and illegal persecution of birds of prey. We have a special interest in raptor persecution in Scotland but we also highlight incidents that take place in other parts of the UK and in the Irish Republic….

Scottish Natural Heritage


Our aim is to help people enjoy Scotland`s natural heritage responsibly, understand it more fully and use it wisely so that it can be sustained for future generations

Scottish Ornithologists Club


On the one hand, a birdwatching club. On the other, a network of volunteers across Scotland, gathering vital information about Scotland’s wild birds. SOC will help you further your knowledge and enjoyment of Scotland’s wonderful birdlife.

Scottish Seabird Centre


Get Close to Nature with amazing live close-ups of Scottish wildlife. Enjoy exciting live wildlife action all year round. Spectacular seabird cities with puffins, gannets, guillemots and shags, as well as marine mammals, including grey seals and bottlenose dolphins…

Scottish Wildlife Trust


We have been championing the incredible diversity of Scotland’s wildlife for over 50 years; from lichens, wood ants and butterflies, to golden eagles, basking sharks and beavers.


Abbreviations Key

Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserves


Within Scotland's varied landscape lies SWT's wildlife reserves which have provided a secure haven for wildlife for over 40 years. We have over 120 reserves covering an area of over 20,000 hectares…

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Black Isle Birding

Tour Operator

We are one of Scotland’s premier birding companies specialising in the Scottish Highlands, Aberdeenshire, Speyside, Islay and Western Isles.

Oriole Birding

Tour Operator

A UK-based company specialising in bird watching tours of Norfolk and Wales, and a wide range of other UK destinations, a comprehensive programme of tours worldwide. Neil Donaghy and Ashley Saunders have over nineteen years experience between them, running their own companies Celtic Bird Tours and Oriole Adventures, before merging the two to create this new venture which offers complete bird tour packages. Value for money, genuinely small groups and great birds.

Speyside Wildlife

Tour Operator

Speyside Wildlife - Friendly, fun and number one for guides to the Scottish Highlands. They know the terrain, are great for beginners and can find the specialities. Golden Eagle, Slavonian Grebe, Scottish Crossbill, Capercaillie, Ptarmigan, Bottlenose Dolphin, Pine Marten, Red Squirrel and, well, everything else (!) with a day among Sea Eagle and Puffin, Otter and Minke Whale. Or go travel the world with them in search of wildlife!

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…


Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2008 [07 July] - Mark Hows


A trip planned to Scotland, this time in prime dragonfly / butterfly / whale watching season to fill gaps in some of my lists. Although these were the primary focus, I did lots of birding and revisiting the site of my MEGA find last year (Bufflehead), I was hoping for more of the same…

2014 [05 May] - Pat & Judy Hayes - Tiree, Fort William, Eigg and the Cairngorms


Having changed our car earlier this year, funds were a little depleted, putting on hold any plans for birding exotic locations until said funds are replenished. With such restraints we decided to expand our photographic album of British birds. With many of the iconic Scottish birds still required we decided to visit locations which would give us a fighting chance of bagging a few…

2015 [05 May] - Andrew Whittaker

Report PDF

... stunning close-up views of a male King Eider (a rare vagrant) in all its glory, even getting the hots for a female Common Eider and displaying; and a male Rock Ptarmigan fighting and almost flying into the fenicular coach on the Cairngorms Mountains! Other memorable moments were marvelous soaring Red Kites and, of course, the scope views of the odd ritual of dazzling male Black Grouse displaying at the lek.

2016 [05 May] - Christopher Hall - England & Scotland - A Grand Tour


...We made an early start, hoping to see the elusive, almost mythical Capercaillie, with several Roe Deer scampering through the pine forest as we approached the Loch Garten RSPB reserve.

2016 [06 June] - Charley Hesse - Scotland and Ireland

PDF Report

If anywhere combines culture, scenery and wildlife beautifully it is Scotland, and we sampled a good amount of each on this tour. We started by exploring the Scottish Highlands with its spectacular mountains, pine forests and lochs, which held Eurasian Dotterel, Rock Ptarmigan, Crested Tit and Slavonian Grebe.

2017 [05 May] - Andrew Whitaker

PDF Report

Breathtaking Scottish highland scenery; superb birding among a constant flush of spring greens combined with colorful flowers; exploring a wealth of interesting historical sites (castles, stately homes, and battlefields); and wrapping up by visiting one of the world’s finest Scots Whisky Distilleries to sample a wee dram—what more can one ask for? Combine this with a wonderful group of people based in a superb historic (birding) hotel where we were treated like kings, with excellent meals (we all certainly gained a little weight) and marvelous hospitality; really, life can’t get much better!


Kindrogan - Scotland’s National Centre for Excellence in Field Studies and Biodiversity Training


…are running a wildlife sound recording course…


Raptor Persecution Scotland


Welcome to the new blog about raptor persecution in Scotland. We will be using this site to expose the relentless persecution of Scottish raptors (such as golden eagles, white-tailed sea eagles, red kites, hen harriers, buzzards, goshawks, peregrines, owls etc), and to monitor how each incident is handled by those responsible for preventing wildlife crime (e.g. police, courts, government). Although our focus is on raptor persecution in Scotland, we will also be documenting incidents in other parts of the UK and Ireland…



A Scottish birder's news, views, travels and pictures from the UK and beyond…

Other Links

Angus Birding


The aim of this web site is to provide the Electronic Birding Community with information at there finger tips of what birds are currently about, primarily in the area of Angus and the Eastern Side of Scotland (Aberdeenshire, Highland & Fife). If there is something of interest fairly nearby, then that will get put on too! If you obvserve an interesting, rare or passage wild bird, then let the rest of us know about it by adding your sighting on the Noticeboard!

Bean Geese in Scotland


Welcome to our website, which is dedicated to this winter visitor to Scotland. It has been created by volunteers who have given of their time and efforts to make this site as informative as possible, while keeping it simple and easy to use. Our objective is to develop a site which furthers the viewers knowledge of this now rare visitor to Scotland.

Garden Crowd


Real natural bird food hand-blended in Scotland for Small Garden Birds

Where to birdwatch in Scotland


Where to bird in all regions of Scotland…

Whittles Publishing


An independent Scottish publisher which includes a number of nature books among its titles…

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Fergus Gill - Scottish Nature Photography


Twenty-three year old Fergus Gill is a Zoology graduate of the University of Glasgow and an avid nature photographer and filmmaker in his spare time.

Photographer - Gordon McCall


Photo gallery of mainly Scottish birds…

Scottish Nature Photography Awards


Photographers from all over the world are drawn to and inspired by Scotland's landscape and natural heritage. We'd like to take the opportunity to celebrate this by means of a series of awards and competitions - the Scottish Nature Photography Awards…