Osprey Pandion haliaetus ©Ron McCombe Website

Fatbirder’s Scotland pages are based on the SOC recording areas rather than geo-political boundaries, although, to a large extent they follow the old traditional counties or groupings of them. The new (2024) map of Scotland shows these areas, and the fatbirder pages for Scotland have been reorganised to reflect the collecting area.

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.

Birding Scotland

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

    Nethy Bridge - Inverness-shire |

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 539

    (Category A - Species that have been recorded in an apparently natural state at least once since 1 January 1950.)
  • Number of bird species:

    National Bird: Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
  • Number of endemics: 1

    Scottish Crossbill Loxia scotica
  • The Scottish List

    The Scottish List, which was last updated in April 2023, is a statement of the status of those species and subspecies known to have occurred in Scotland and its coastal waters.
Useful Reading

  • 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
  • Birds in South-East Scotland 2007-13

    | A Tetrad Atlas of the Birds of Lothian and Borders | By Ray D Murray et al | Scottish Ornithologists' Club | 2019 | Hardback | 542 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780951213971 Buy this book from
  • Birdwatching in Scotland

    | by Paul Doherty | Bird Images Video Guides | 2002 | DVD | Runtime: 108 min | ISBN: 5065000721022 Buy this book from
  • Collins Gem Guide to Scottish Birds

    | Valerie Thom | HarperCollins | 2006 | Paperback | 192 pages, Col photos, col illus, dist maps | ISBN: 9780007207695 Buy this book from
  • RSPB Handbook of Scottish Birds

    | by Peter Holden & Stuart Housden | Bloomsbury | 2016 | Paperback | 256 pages, 1000 colour illustrations, colour distribution maps ISBN: 9781472965189 Buy this book from
  • The Crossley ID Guide: Britain & Ireland

    | by Richard Crossley & Dominic Couzens | Bloomsbury | 2013 | Paperback | 256 pages, 1000 colour illustrations, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780691151946 Buy this book from
  • Where to Watch Birds in Scotland

    | by Mike Madders & Julia Welstead | Christopher Helm | 2002 | Paperback | 297 pages, b/w illus, maps | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780713656930 Buy this book from
Birding Aps
  • All Birds Scotland

    Apple iOS | Android
    | Sunbird Images | Mullen & Pohland GbR | 1.1 GB | Requires iOS 8.0 or later | Requires Android 4.0 and up |

    This is the only app that describes in detail all the 513 bird species of Scotland, including irregular visitors! It comes with distribution maps and 1,834 premium photos in HD-quality and more than 800 bird songs.
  • Where to Watch Birds Scotland

    Apple iOS | Android
    | SOC Birdwatching Site Guide | Mucky Puddle | 108.4 MB | Requires iOS 10.0 or later |

    From the SOC - Scotland’s Bird Club – this app will help beginners and experts alike to discover hundreds of the best places to see and enjoy birds around the country.
  • 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:
  • 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

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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
  • Birding Ecosse

    Tour Operator
    All inclusive holidays, short breaks and day trips tailor made for you.
  • Birding Ecotours

    Tour Operator
    England and Scotland in Spring
  • 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!
  • Travelling Naturalist

    Tour Operator
    Scotland is breathtakingly beautiful and filled with a plethora of bird and wildlife. From the far reaches of the Outer Hebrides, filled with birds and rich marine life, to the Highlands and Lowlands with remote mountain lochs and sugar-white sand dunes, the nature is magnificent.
Trip Reports
  • 2021 [06 June] - Richard Thomas - Central Scotland

    PDF Report
    This was a trip primarily timed and centred around observing Chequered Skipper, a species that had previously eluded us during our previous visit to the Fort William area (admittedly at the wrong time of year and in poor weather!)
  • 2021 [06 June] - Gordon Shaw - Cairngorms

    PDF Report
    Beata and I visited the Strathspey / Speyside area of Scotland between the above dates, as we needed a holiday and couldn’t travel outside the UK due to Covid. Obviously, we did a fair bit of birding coupled with some general tourism and walking. I was keen to see some of the Speyside specialities, but aware of how elusive these can be from past visits, as they proved to be...
  • 2022 [06 June] - Mark Warren - Highlands & Islands

    PDF Report
    ...And the battlefield itself gave us our first views of several characteristic birds of the region - Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Greenfinch, and Pied Wagtail in the grasslands, and Common Buzzard, Red Kite, Common Gull (which really is the common inland gull here) and Common Swift overhead...
  • 2022 [08 August] - Holly Page - Highlands & Islands

    PDF Report
    ...Ed spotted a bird perched on a fence post which turned out to be a common Buzzard. It posed nicely allowing everybody to get a good look at the first raptor of the trip. Further down the road we paused alongside a field full of corvids – Rook, Carrion Crow and Jackdaw were side by side providing a nice comparison. A Curlew was also seen in the field along with a Pheasant...
  • 2023 [08 August] - Stephen Grace

    PDF Report
    Bilingual Birding: Connecting to History, Culture and Conservation in Scotland
Other Links
  • 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
  • David Slater - Birding Ecosse Blogspot

    Welcome to the Birding Ecosse blog, if it is your first visit then thank you very much for dropping in, if you were a regular to my old blog then thank you for updating your bookmarks!
  • Michael Cook - Wild Scot

  • 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…
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.
  • 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…

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