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Birding Aberdeenshire

Aberdeenshire (including the separately administered Aberdeen City)

Aberdeenshire makes up the north-east corner of Scotland, a large area including a very wide range of habitats. The habitat diversity, and the presence of many of Scotland's speciality birds makes the region a magnet for birders visiting the UK. Here is a short list of the main habitats, and the key birds to find there:

Seabird Cliffs - granite and basalt, among the most spectacular anywhere, with Gannets, Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Shags, Fulmars, etc. in their thousands.

Cairngorm Mountains and foothills (overlapping into Highland Region) & Native forests - Scottish Ptarmigan (endemic sub-sp.); Scottish Crossbill (endemic sp.); Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Golden Eagle, Crested Tit, Dotterel, Ring Ouzel, etc.

Coastal Passage areas - especially in the hot bed between Aberdeen and Fraserburgh, with good spots at Girdleness, Balmedie, Newburgh, Cruden Bay and Rattray, these are essential places to visit whenever there is a south-easterly wind, April to June and again September to November. All of the regular passage birds can be seen, as well as good numbers of real rarities, and flooded pools in the Newburgh area are excellent for rare shorebirds. The North-east Scotland recording area holds the record for the most species of birds seen in 24 hours (in Scotland) and is second only to Norfolk for the UK.

Farmland - not generally thought of as particularly good birding habitats! But the north-east still has good numbers of Corn Bunting, Grey Partridge, Lapwing, and several other breeding waders, in marked contrast to much of the rest of the country. In winter the areas around Fraserburgh and around Newburgh play host to some 30,000 Pink-footed Geese, while further inland similar numbers of Greylags spend the winter. There are also usually good numbers of Barnacle Geese, Wigeon, Teal, and Whooper Swans.

Good bases for a stay of several days are set out below:

Top Sites

Banchory, Aboyne and Ballater

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situated west of Aberdeen, along the river Dee. Top tourist spots (near to Balmoral Castle) hence can be a little pricey, but great bases to explore the Deeside Hills and the southern Cairngorms. Banchory is closest to Aberdeen, and handy for the Stonehaven seabird cliffs.


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Braemar - the furthest west village of the region, and well into the southern Cairngorms. Ideal for a walking holiday, or seeing the mountaintop specialities like Dotterel, Snow Bunting, Ptarmigan, Eagles, etc. but rather a long way from the coast. The scenery is beautiful and the hotels are moderately priced. If you only want the mountain birds, this is the place to be.


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12 miles north of Aberdeen. A quiet village with loads of birds very close by (Forvie Sands NNR). One small, comfortable, country hotel and several B&Bs. My own personal preference, as it means birding before breakfast is possible, even after the night before!

Strathbeg and St. Coombs


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St. Coombs is a small village not far from Strathbeg RSPB reserve, and Rattray Head coastal migrant spot, in the north-east tip of the county. Strathbeg is a superb reserve which turns up many rarities regularly. St. Coombs has a very comfortable newly built hotel with good food and beer.


County Recorder

Nick Littlewood

James Hutton Institute, Cragiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QA

07784 965920


Number of Species

Number of bird species: ?

There is no county bird as such but the top candidate must be Scotish Crossbill Loxia scotica as this is the stronghold of the UK`s only endemic.

Useful Reading

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

Birding Guide to North-East Scotland

(Including Part of the Cairngorms National Park) | by Mark Sullivan &, Ian Francis | Aberdeen and District RSPB Group | 2015 | Paperback | 130 pages, colour photos, colour maps |

ISBN: 9780956112675

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where to Watch Birds in Scotland

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

ISBN: 071365693X

Buy this book from NHBS.com


North Sea Bird Club


The North Sea Bird Club has recorded the movements and occurrence of birds, mammals, and insects in the North Sea and other British waters since 1979, making use of fixed and mobile platforms and vessels offshore. Data are stored on computer at Culterty and published in Annual Reports and Quarterly Bulletins. The club is financed by corporate membership of 14 major oil and gas companies and currently receives data from around 250 observers.

RSPB Aberdeen And District Local Group


With a recording area of nearly 7,000 km2, North-East Scotland offers a range of excellent birding opportunities. During migration times, most local birders efforts are likely to be concentrated along the north and east coasts of the region which extend for more than 170 kilometres. Every area of cover is worth checking during spring and autumn when there is a wind from the north-east, east or south-east, especially when it's accompanied by rain.

RSPB Aberdeen and North East Scotland

Facebook Page

RSPB Scotland is part of the RSPB, the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home in North East Scotland.

RSPB Friends Of Strathbeg


Do you love Loch of Strathbeg? Share your thoughts and photos with the community. Or if you're thinking about visiting and would like to find out more, ask away!

SOC North-East Scotland


Hugh Addlesee, 31 Ashtree Road, Banchory, AB31 5JB, Tel 01330 829949


Abbreviations Key

FC Scolty


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Mixed flocks of great tits, coal tits, treecreepers, chaffinches and golden-crested wrens are moving through the forest in search of food, while in other areas noisy flocks of siskins are active…

FC The Bin


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The Bin is a mixed conifer woodland with a good variety of walks. Trees have been here since the 1840s, when the Duke of Gordon started the first planting.

RSPB Fowlsheugh


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Guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes breed in large numbers, with smaller numbers of fulmars, herring gulls, puffins and shags…

RSPB Loch of Strathbeg


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This superb wetland in north-east Scotland is a vital site for waterfowl and other wildlife. In winter, 20% of the world's population of pink-footed geese spend time at the reserve. Large numbers of lapwings, golden plovers, whooper swans and barnacle geese are also found here during the winter – as well as bitterns…

SNNR Forvie Nature Reserve


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The Ythan Estuary and Forvie Sands can be found just to the north of the village of Newburgh. There is a small car park to the right immediately after crossing the bridge.

SSSI Ythan Estuary


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The Ythan estuary lies 20 Km north of Aberdeen. This tranquil inlet, with its sandy shores, mudflats and mussel beds, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest within the Forvie National Nature Reserve, an area rich in aquatic and terrestrial life.

Forums & Mailing Lists

Rare birds in N-E Scotland


Sightings - Rare birds in N-E Scotland is a Restricted Group with 323 members. Rare birds in N-E Scotland

Guides & Tour Operators

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

Aberdeenshire Bird Tours

Facebook Page

Bespoke birdwatching tours around Aberdeenshire and North East Scotland. Options include a couple of hours local birdwatching to full day trips.

Birding Pal


Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

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.

2009 [02 February] - Stephen Burch


Stephen Burch's Birding & Dragonfly Website - his is a short photo based trip report, covering less than one full day's birding on the Aberdeenshire coast, on 18 February 2009. Once again, a business trip to Aberdeen provided this opportunity for some birding afterwards…

2011 [06 June] - Hilary MacBean


The weather was sunny with a cool wind. Showers built up on both days but did not spoil the really clear views. The groups first set out for Bawdy Meg, to view the Osprey nest from about 400m. There were two young hatchlings and on the Thursday, the adults were found soaring with two “visiting” adults above the nest; unusual behaviour that caused the hatchlings to hunker down out of sight. Along the way, many woodland and hill birds were in evidence, including Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Buzzard, Redstart, Green Woodpecker and Meadow Pipit. We were all pleased to note a high number of Crossbills…

Places to Stay

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

Aikenshill B&B


Aikenshill is an impressive property on Scotland’s north-east coast. Situated six miles north of Aberdeen, this spacious and well-appointed house affords stunning views over rolling sand-dunes as well as easy access to some of Scotland’s most beautiful countryside and top visitor attractions…

Greenbrae B&B - Buchan


Greenbrae aims to be environmentally friendly. Energy will be conserved by not providing the usual B&B trappings of over wrapped individual soaps, and sachets of shower gel. Where possible local products will be bought, reducing transportation energy, gardening will be organic, the policy on waste will be to reduce, reuse and recycle. Guests using public transport, bicycles and walkers will be welcomed. We will produce our own food where possible and have free-range hens to provide eggs for the kitchen. We will actively encourage birds into the garden… …The RSPB reserve loch of Strathbeg and the National Nature Reserve at Forvie sands and Ythan Estuary are only twelve miles away…


Collieston Birding


The birds and wildlife of the Collieston, Slains and Forvie Sands area in Aberdeenshire. Positioned by the cliffs and shoreline just east of the Ythan estuary it has a diversity of habitat that makes it of interest throughout the year. This blog is maintained by a number of local observers.

Martin Collinson

Twitter Website

Mild-mannered scientist by day. Crime fighting superhero and Vice-chair of @britishbirds Editorial Board by night. Pissed off ex-Chair of BOURC

Sam Langlois - Prismaticos veratos en Escocia


Last update 2016 - Sam Langlois is a Spanish birder who'll be living in Aberdeen for the next four years studying Marine Biolog...