Bohemian Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus ©Nigel Blake
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:

This page is sponsored by Birding Ecosse

Top Sites
  • Banchory, Aboyne and Ballater

    Satellite View
    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.
  • Braemar

    Satellite View
    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.
  • Newburgh

    Satellite View
    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

    InformationSatellite View
    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.
  • Paul Doyle

    | paul(AT)wildlifeweb.co.uk

County Recorder
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

  • 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 illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9780713656930 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • North Sea Bird Club

    Facebook Page
    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

    WebpageSatellite View
    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…
  • RSPB Fowlsheugh

    WebpageSatellite View
    Guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes breed in large numbers, with smaller numbers of fulmars, herring gulls, puffins and shags…
  • RSPB Loch of Strathbeg

    WebpageSatellite View
    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

    InformationSatellite View
    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

    WebpageSatellite View
    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
  • 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.
Trip Reports

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 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 to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • Aikenshill B&B

    Aikenshill is an impressive property on Scotland
  • 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...

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