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Sustainable bird spotting anytime
Vast landscapes of unspoilt and quiet nature and few or no disturbing crowds make Norway ideal for birdwatching. The author of A Birdwatcher's Guide to Norway shares his favourite spots, and songs.
Birdwatching: Three Puffins at The North Cape, Northern Norway
Puffins at the North Cape.
Photo: Finnmark Reiseliv

Birdwatching is big in Norway, and whilst the activity elsewhere sometimes causes parking problems, the roomy Norwegian wilderness inside and outside of the national parks is never overpopulated. Sometimes it’s just you, and the birds.

Of the world’s about 9,000 bird species, around 300 have their natural habitat in Norway, and an additional number of around 200 rarer bird types are found at certain places and times of the year.

“Birdwatching and outdoor games on your phone like Pokémon GO has much of the same driving force, that appeals to the explorer”, says Bjørn Olav Tveit, author of A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Norway.

“The joy of birdwatching is to explore nature that you would normally miss. The more you delve into this hobby, the more you discover”, he says. “To locate and find a rare specimen is like catching a really big trout. It’s all about tactics, knowledge, and endurance.”

Close-up of a Parrot crossbill on a tree top, Norway
Photo: Tveit / A Birdwatcher's Guide to Norway

“Take the Arctic Warbler. It sings during two short weeks in late June, in the dense birch forest surrounding the beautiful Neiden church in Finnmark county, which is close to the Russian border. The rest of the year, this species is practically impossible to locate.”

“Vocally, the song is quite monotone and boring”, Bjørn Olav admits. “But the fascination is about timing, location, and experiencing untouched nature. Especially when you know that this is one of the few places in Europe outside of Siberia that the little songbird of the north can be expected.”

Both Norwegian and visiting birdwatchers are mostly nice people who are passionate about showing respect for the environment.

“There is a common unwritten code of conduct – you respect the nature and the animals”, Bjørn Olav says.

Close-up of a Northern Hawk Owl in Norway
Northern hawk-owl.
Photo: Tveit / A Birdwatcher's Guide to Norway

Unfortunately, nest looting happens. But beware: “Local birdwatching enthusiasts and other local people will normally notice and eventually call the police if they observe humans or vehicles suspiciously close to for instance a protected Gyrfalcon nest”, Bjørn Olav warns.

Bird spotting is generally good for the environment, because it makes far more people conscious of the fragility of nature and the rarity of its wild animals”, he says, and adds: “For example, birdwatchers keep an appropriate distance by bringing their smart phones to take pictures through their binoculars. You can even make good sound recording from a considerable distance."

If you want to spot some birds yourself, you can download illustrated apps such as “Birds of Northern Europe” and “Collins Bird Guide”, both of which include recordings of the songs and calls of all the species you can hope to encounter.

On the website Artsobservasjoner.no, birdwatchers all over the country report their latest observations.

Close-up of a white Rock Ptarmigan in the snow in Norway
Rock ptarmigan.
Photo: Tveit – A Birdwatcher's Guide to Norway

Where to observe wild birds

Pack your gear, go out there, be patient, and just listen.

A long coast

The coast hosts Norway’s world famous seabird colonies. Islands such as Runde and Røst are almost biblical in the realms of Norwegian ornithology and include huge colonies of Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica).

Varanger peninsula in Finnmark is undoubtedly one of Europe’s top birding areas. Here are true Arctic species such as Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri), King Eider (Somateria spectabilis), Brünnich’s Guillemot (Uria lomvia) and Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus), but also Scandinavian species such as Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula), Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus), Siberian Tit (Poecile cincta), Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus) and Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa).

Northern Norway also has the biggest population of white-tailed eagles in Europe. From here, the species has spread to most of the Norwegian coastline, and eagles from Norway have even been brought over to help repopulate Scotland with these majestic birds.

Suburban birdwatching

The Østensjøvannet lake a few kilometres southeast of Oslo city centre is a shallow and eutrophic lake with a habitat that is not common in Norway. West of the city centre you’ll find the nature reserve and bird observatory at Fornebu. Norway’s second largest city, Bergen, is known for its mountain habitats and coniferous forests that you can explore without leaving the urban behind.

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