Bird Watching at Latrabjarg Cliffs, Iceland

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The cliffs of Latrabjarg, in Iceland, marks the westernmost part of Europe. These cliffs are home to millions of birds, including puffins, northern gannets, guillemots and razorbills. As much as 40% of the world population for some species of birds, such as the Razorbill, live on the cliff. It is Europe's largest bird cliff at 14km long and up to 440m high.

Although the guillemot is the most common bird at Látrabjarg, it’s the thousands of puffins that most people come here to see. Latrabjarg is famous for how close one can get to watch the birds. Safe from foxes, the birds are fearless, and provide stunning photographic opportunities from close range. The puffins are particularly tame and are the ones frequenting the grassy, higher part of the cliffs where they build their burrows, often up to 2m in length. They return to the same burrows they occupied the year before, almost always during the third week of April, where they remain until August or September. Their main breeding period is from May to July.

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The cliffs are also home to the largest colony of razorbills in the world, as well as to thousands of other screeching breeds of sea bird including cormorants, fulmars and kittiwakes. The din here can be quite overpowering, as can the stench from the piles of guano on the cliff face.

For centuries, the cliffs were a source of delicious seabird eggs for the local people. Farmers would catch birds and gather eggs, risking their lives as they rappel down the dangerous cliff face. It’s estimated that around 35,000 birds were caught here every year until the late 1950s. Eggs are still collected from the cliff today, partly to keep alive this tradition that has been handed from one generation to the next for centuries.

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Sources: Wikipedia, Breidavik.is, Westfjords.is, Rough Guides, Iceland Travel

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