Outer Hebrides

Corncrake Crex crex ©Yvonne Benting Website

na h-Eileanan Siar The Outer Hebrides or Western Isles is one of the 32 unitary council areas of Scotland. The area is also a single Watsonian ‘vice-county’ (No: 110). Also as a recording area, it includes: the main islands of Lewis & Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra, as well as the following outlying islands: North Rona (HW8132), Sula Sgeir (HW6230), Flannan Isles (NA7246), St Kilda (the term refers to all islands and stacks in the group, NF0999), Causamul (NF6670) and Monach Islands (NF6262).

Geographically, they form part of the Hebrides, and are separated from the Scottish mainland and from the Inner Hebrides by the waters of the Minch, the Little Minch and the Sea of the Hebrides. Scottish Gaelic is the predominant spoken language, although in a few areas English speakers form a majority. The 15 inhabited islands have a total population of 27,000 and there are more than 50 substantial uninhabited islands.

The major islands are Lewis & Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra. From Barra Head to the Butt of Lewis is roughly 130 miles.The Outer Hebrides covers an area approaching 300,000 ha of which much is inland water (there are over 6,000 lochs and lochans and over 1,300 streams). The islands comprise only just over 1% of land area of Britain but almost 16% of the area of standing waters (lochs). There is a high average annual wind speed and rainfall.

Berneray to Eriskay and Barra is often referred to as the Southern Isles and causeways link all but the last. A vehicle ferry connects Eriskay to Barra. All down the western side of the Southern Isles is a broad fertile band of shell-sand fertilised land known as the machair with its profusion of wild flowers in the summer. Over 70% of the land is in Crofting tenure and therefore farmed at low intensity. On the east side of the islands lie most of the hills with the highest being just over 600m. On a clear day a trek to the top of Eaval on North Uist will reveal how much water there is around.

      View over Milton to Ben Mhor, South Uist        © Hebridean Imaging

The Sound of Harris ferry from Berneray links the Southern Isles to the largest landmass in the Outer Hebrides, Lewis and Harris. Harris is generally much more rocky than further south and the hills rise to almost 800m at Clisham. There is little machair compared with the Southern Isles and away from the western fringe the landscape is dominated by heather, bog and loch. At Stornoway can be found the only appreciable area of old woodland in the Outer Hebrides. Some outlying islands are North Rona, Sula Sgeir, St Kilda/Boreray, Monach Islands, Mingulay/Berneray and the Shiant Islands.

Birding the Western Isles

For the general naturalist visits in spring and summer are the most rewarding and the best chance of connecting with Corncrake. The islands hold almost 50% of the UK breeding population and the best time for actually seeing one is in the few weeks after they arrive and before the vegetation gets too tall. Before this Whooper Swans and geese (Greenland White-fronts, Pink-feet, Barnacle and Brent) are often encountered on their northbound migration. Red-throated and Black-throated Divers arrive at breeding sites and for several years there have been breeding pairs of Whooper Swans. Breeding wildfowl include Wigeon and Shoveler. For many rare breeding species there are special penalties for disturbance unless appropriately licensed. Golden Eagles, Hen Harriers, Merlins and Short-eared Owls are often encountered and there is also a good chance of seeing a White-tailed Eagle (there are some twenty-five pairs now). There are around 90 pairs of Golden Eagle!

Wader passage can be spectacular along the shore and on the machair of the Southern Isles including hundreds, possibly thousands, of Ringed Plover and Dunlin. Breeding birds on the machair have suffered almost a 50% decline since the early 1980s mainly due to egg predation by introduced (they were not native) Hedgehogs. Snipe and Redshank have also been badly hit. Initially (2003) Scottish Heritage culled hedgehogs, but this was halted (2007) and instead they are trapped and relocated on the mainland. A similar problem with Mink has largely been successfully eradicated.

For the dedicated skua watcher the headland at Balranald Nature Reserve (Aird an Rùnair) is the place to witness the well-documented passage of Pomarine and Long-tailed Skuas as they head north to their breeding grounds. Of course this does not occur every year as without on-shore winds the birds will pass out of sight of land. To give some idea of numbers in three springs (2007-2011) there were around 1,000 Pomarine and around 500 Long-tailed in every year. If the winds are sufficiently strong there is the chance of Leach’s Petrel or Red-necked Phalarope.

Many species that are in decline on the mainland for example Lapwing and Skylark are still plentiful as are Starlings and House Sparrows. Twites are widespread but, sadly, the Southern Isles no longer supports a population of Corn Buntings. Hebridean races of Song Thrush and Dunnock should be looked for as well as the Scottish subspecies of Linnet (status said to be the most tenuous of any of Scotland’s endemic subspecies).

Spring and autumn is of course a good time for the rarity seeker and several places such as the Ness area of Lewis and the island of Barra receive much better coverage than in the past. The autumn can usually be relied upon to bring a scattering of North American waders. Winter birding can be good with good numbers of wildfowl and waders and sometimes Iceland and Glaucous Gulls and Snow Buntings. On the downside there is extensive shooting of wildfowl (especially Greylag Geese with increasing numbers causing conflict with crofters) together with Snipe, Woodcock and Golden Plover. Outlying islands support important colonies of seabirds (some being the largest in Britain) including Storm and Leach’s Petrels, Gannets and Puffins.

With the profusion of good habitat, anything can turn up anywhere, and some of the most productive localities are mentioned below. There are of course many more that have held rarities over the years. With so few really active birders residing on the islands coverage in many places is poor. All rarities mentioned have occurred since 2000.

Top Sites
  • Barra

    Satellite View
    Relatively easier to cover for birders than the larger islands and has, for a number of years, been well covered by a team in the autumn. Unusual birds have turned up in small plantations and gardens all over the island. Unlike the rest of the Southern Isles there have only been a handful of rare ducks, waders and gulls but these have been Ring-necked Duck, American Golden Plover, Baird’s Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Laughing Gull. Also a Redhead although at the time of writing all records of this species are undergoing a review by BBRC. It is the rare passerines that have been found that have put this island in the spotlight. Three have been from North America, Hermit Thrush, Yellow Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The first two were first records for the Outer Hebrides and the grosbeak the second. Other first records have been Paddyfield and Booted Warblers and Bee-eater. Some other notable records have been Olive-backed Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Woodchat and Isabelline Shrikes (probably the same bird that was first seen on Lewis), Arctic Redpoll, and Black-headed and Little Buntings. Also a host of ‘lesser’ rarities such as Barred and Yellow-browed Warblers (possibly as many as ten in one autumn), Red-breasted Flycatcher, Golden Oriole, Rose-coloured Starling and Common Rosefinch.
  • Benbecula lochs

    Satellite View
    These hold good numbers of breeding wildfowl including Wigeon and Shoveler. Up to three Lesser Scaup have occurred and (on the appropriately locally named Coot Loch) an American Coot. Also there has been an over-wintering Greater Yellowlegs and an exceptionally early spring Whiskered Tern (a first record for the Outer Hebrides). Red-necked Phalaropes can be seen from the road bisecting Loch Mòr and Loch Fada in summer. In nearby fields there has been a spring Laughing Gull and autumn American Golden Plover, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and the much rarer Upland Sandpiper while a Buff-bellied Pipit was found on the adjacent shore.
  • Harris - Borve

    Satellite View
    Generally Harris receives much less attention by birders than other islands. Borve and nearby Horgabost appear to be two areas worthy of more. A Common Rosefinch and a Two-barred Crossbill were isolated reports.
  • Harris - Sound of Taransay

    Satellite View
    Along with Broad Bay supports the largest number of Common Scoters in the Outer Hebrides. Noted for regular sightings of up to four Surf Scoters.
  • Lewis - Brue/Loch Barvas

    Satellite View
    An area notable for a number of unusual birds, most having been found by the resident RSPB Conservation Officer. These have included a regular Snowy Owl (probably the same one as the bird seen regularly in the Mangersta area), a Ring-billed Gull, an Alpine Swift, a White’s Thrush and an Isabelline Shrike (relocated on Barra as it moved south). A potential first record for Scotland was a Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk),
  • Lewis - Labost

    Satellite View
    A seawatching site with the highlights being over 40 Great Shearwaters in the great influx, a Wilson’s Petrel and a Zino’s/Fea’s Petrel.
  • Lewis - Loch na Muilne RSPB

    WebpageSatellite View
    For a long while the presence of Red-necked Phalaropes here was a closely guarded secret but now visitors are encouraged to visit and to enjoy the facilities at the RSPB reserve. A surprise visitor one early June day was a Bufflehead.
  • Lewis - Ness area

    Satellite View
    One of the highlights was an unprecedented influx of Great Shearwaters when over 8,000 passed the Butt in two days one September (the last similar influx to British waters was over 40 years previously but this was much further to the south). A single Cory’s Shearwater was also seen along with a record passage of Sooty Shearwaters. In recent years observers have discovered a small pre-migration gathering of White-billed Divers off the east side of Lewis. Up to seven together have occurred with the Port of Ness or nearby Skigersta being favoured watch points (records also come from further south from Tolsta Head to Tiumpan Head). Visitors from North America have been an American Wigeon, several American Golden Plovers and Pectoral and Buff-breasted Sandpipers along with single Killdeer, Baird’s and Least Sandpipers (the last a first record for the Outer Hebrides). Rare gulls have been Bonaparte’s (one from the west side dropped in to Loch Stiapavat one May day) and Laughing (part of an exceptional national influx at the time). There have been two Gyr Falcons while other notable records concern Bee-eater, a couple of Red-rumped Swallows, an Olive-backed Pipit (another first record) and a Woodchat Shrike. Not forgetting of course the first Purple Martin for the Western Palearctic one early September.
  • Lewis - Point (Eye Peninsular)

    Satellite View
    Tiumpan Head hosts the occasional White-billed Diver in spring (see under Ness area). Unusual birds have been Laughing Gull, White-winged Black Tern and Richard’s Pipit.
  • Lewis - Stornoway area

    Satellite View
    Stornoway woods hold a small number of woodland species that are rare or mainly absent from the Southern Isles. There is a record of a Red-eyed Vireo. In a Waxwing year the town is the most reliable site to connect with them. The harbour holds good numbers of Iceland Gulls in some winters. Other gulls seen have been Bonaparte’s, American Herring and Ivory. Just outside the town the area of Steinish/Laxdale estuary has hosted a Cattle Egret and a grey-morph Gyr Falcon (the falcon generated much debate as non-white morphs are said to be surprisingly rare). Other unusual birds have been a Black Kite (at the landfill site), a Crane and a couple of Red-rumped Swallows. A Harlequin Duck although some distance from the town at Coll and Gress is worth a mention as is also a Bonaparte’s Gull at Coll. Broad Bay can be viewed from this road or from Melbost on the other side of the bay and holds good numbers of divers and sea-duck in winter. On Loch Branahuie (just before the Eye Peninsular) there is an impressive build-up of Long-tailed Ducks in the spring. On one occasion, a Bufflehead, presumably the same bird that flew north off the North Uist coast some days before, was seen.
  • North Uist - Baleshare

    Satellite View
    Wildfowl in winter have included a fairly regular Green-winged Teal and there have been two Lesser Scaup. The whole area is subjected to heavy shooting pressure in the autumn and winter. It is worth checking the fields in the autumn for North American waders as there have been a couple of American Golden Plovers, several Buff-breasted and Pectoral Sandpipers and a Long-billed Dowitcher. There have also been a couple of Snowy Owls (probably the same birds being seen elsewhere on North Uist). Although not on Baleshare but just the other side of the causeway at Carnach it is worth mentioning the second Scottish record of Mourning Dove (only a short distance away from the first, at Carinish, eight years before).
  • North Uist - Balranald RSPB

    WebpageSatellite View
    The spring skua passage at Aird an Rùnair has already been mentioned in the introduction. Unusual birds in spring have included Bufflehead (a flyby that later turned up on the east side of Lewis), a Gyr Falcon, a Killdeer, two Semipalmated Sandpipers (in two consecutive years although one was in summer), a Long-billed Dowitcher, and two White-winged Black Terns. There have been also regular sightings of a Snowy Owl and trips of Dotterel. Autumn seawatching is generally not as good as at Griminish Point but can still be productive. Just south of the reserve is Loch Paible, a tidal loch, which holds good numbers of waders. Pectoral, White-rumped and Baird’s Sandpipers have all been seen as well as a spring Broad-billed Sandpiper. Also in the same spring there was a Gyr Falcon.
  • North Uist - Clachan Farm

    Satellite View
    The small plantation here was devastated by the exceptional storm of 2005 but still attracts unusual visitors, Red-backed Shrike, Bluethroat and Golden Oriole being among them. A Black Stork that had been ringed in Hungary was seen in one spring (also reported from several other places in Scotland with the last sighting on the Shetland Isles) and a Gyr Falcon in another. Nearby Oban Trumisgarry is worth a mention for a record of a Hooded Merganser. A species with a chequered history with the British List this bird was eventually admitted to Category A as the first record for Britain.
  • North Uist - Claddach-vallay and Ben Risary plantation

    Satellite View
    The large plantation supports a small number of breeding Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls with Greenshank nearby. There has even been a Brown Shrike (the first for the Outer Hebrides). Later it was in a Claddach-vallay garden where another shrike, this time a Woodchat, appeared a few years later. In a nearby burn one spring a Night Heron was discovered. Hoopoe has also occurred here.
  • North Uist - Grenitote area

    Satellite View
    The area to the north and west of the township has hosted a regular Snowy Owl and a Gyr Falcon one early spring (later at Clachan Farm and Lochportain). A Golden Oriole in a small plantation in autumn was unusual (only the third at this time of the year) and a spring Subalpine Warbler was in a Grenitote garden.
  • North Uist - Langass

    Satellite View
    The garden and small plantation by the hotel attract migrants in spring and autumn, Red-backed Shrike, Barred and Yellow-browed Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher, and Firecrest (a scarce bird this far north) being among them.
  • North Uist - Lochmaddy

    Satellite View
    A number of gardens and small plantations are worthy of a look for migrants in spring and autumn. Sightings include a Rose-coloured Starling, a Golden Oriole, a couple of Common Rosefinches and an Arctic Redpoll.
  • North Uist - Scolpaig/Griminish Point

    Satellite View
    Autumn seawatching at Griminish Point is best in strong westerly winds. A count of 74 Great Shearwaters was notable but a mere fraction of the numbers that passed the Butt of Lewis at the same time. In good winds there are small numbers of Leach’s Petrels and Grey Phalaropes and a few Sabine’s Gulls. This is the only Scottish west coast seawatching point where over 100 Pomarine Skuas have been recorded in one autumn day. Often there is a good passage of divers, geese/ducks and waders coming from Iceland. Red-throated and Great Northern Divers and Brent Geese are the most numerous species. A roost of over 300 Rock Doves use nearby Sloc Roe. The gorse bushes at Scolpaig are worth checking for migrants in spring and autumn. It should be noted that there is no vehicle access to this site and parking is a problem.
  • South Uist - Bornish to Rubha Ardvule

    Satellite View
    Returning to the coast and to another excellent birding site in the Southern Isles. From Loch Bornish to Rubha Ardvule the machair abounds with waders, gulls and passerines. Highlights have been both American and Pacific Golden Plovers and yet another addition to the Outer Hebrides list, a Hudsonian Whimbrel. Seawatching in spring at Rubha Ardvule is generally not as productive as at Aird an Rùnair, especially for Pomarine and Long-tailed Skuas. It is in the autumn that this site is best known for seawatching especially in SW winds. The long-leading coastline obviously helps compared to sites on North Uist although watchers largely missed out on the exceptional Great Shearwater passage. More Sabine’s Gulls are seen here than at any other site in the Outer Hebrides. The bays on each side of the headland hold good numbers of waders and gulls highlights being Stilt Sandpiper and Wilson’s Phalarope (both first records for the Outer Hebrides). Also there have been Pectoral, Baird’s and Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs and two Bonaparte’s Gulls. Gardens at Bornish are worth looking at, Barred and Yellow-browed Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Golden Oriole all having been recorded.
  • South Uist - Howmore/Howmore River

    Satellite View
    This area really hit the headlines in the late autumn of 2000 with the discovery of a Long-tailed Shrike, the first for Britain. Another first was of three Blue-winged Teal together one autumn day. Other rarities have been Long-billed Dowitcher and Bonaparte’s Gull. The last was also seen at nearby Peninerine. All along this stretch of coast there is often interchange of birds between Ardivachar to the N of the Howmore River and Rubha Ardvule to the S.
  • South Uist - Loch Druidibeag NNR

    Satellite View
    Although birds such as Black-throated Diver can be seen in summer and Golden Eagle and other birds of prey over the hills the area is perhaps more notable for unusual passerines. The garden at the crossroads on the N side of the loch and the small plantation on the Lochskipport road both being particular productive for attracting good birds. The trees around nearby Grogarry Lodge are also worthy of a look in spring and autumn. Rarest visitors have been Hermit Thrush (quickly following a bird on Barra) and Arctic and Blackpoll Warblers.
  • South Uist - North Locheynort

    Satellite View
    Leaving the coast for a completely different habitat on the E side we find a well-established plantation at the road end. White-tailed Eagles are often over the hills. Along the road leading to North Locheynort there have been records of Ring-necked Duck and Great White Egret (a very mobile bird that also visited several places on North Uist). It is the plantation however that most birders are attracted to for the chance of scarcities such as Yellow-browed Warbler or Common Rosefinch in the autumn or even something rarer. There has been a Pallas’s Warbler (surprisingly a first record for the Outer Hebrides), two Red-eyed Vireos (maybe the first time that two have occurred together in Scotland) and an Arctic Redpoll.
  • South Uist - South Ford and Loch Bee

    Satellite View
    Together with Bornish/Rubha Ardvule are excellent birding areas in the Southern Isles, especially for wildfowl, waders and gulls. There are a number of viewing points from the minor roads leading to Balgarva, North Bay and Ardivachar. Also parts of Loch Bee although an easier viewing area is in the SW corner (accessed by a track through the Range and complex or from the main road through West Gerinish. Obviously the Range is out of bounds if the red flags are flying! The largest flock of Greenland White-fronted Geese in the Outer Hebrides can usually be seen in winter along the west side of the loch. American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal occur with some regularity. Throughout the area there has been an impressive number of North American waders with several American Golden Plovers, Pectoral and Buff-breasted Sandpipers as well as Semipalmated, Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Wilson’s Phalarope. There has also been a Pacific Golden Plover. Amongst the gulls have been several Bonaparte’s, a couple of Ring-billed and single Laughing and American Herring. An American Black Tern in North Bay one November day was a first Scottish record. Gull-billed Tern has also been recorded. Large flocks of Twite and mixed flocks of Skylarks and Snow Buntings are to be found on the machair in winter and occasionally good numbers of Lapland Buntings in the autumn. Two Snowy Owls have occurred and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was found dead one early November day.
  • South Uist - South Glendale

    Satellite View
    Another area that has seen a steep upsurge in records of unusual birds due to there being a resident birder in the township. Outstanding was an Iberian Chiffchaff one late spring day (another first record). Also notable have been Red-breasted Flycatcher in the spring and Little Bunting in the autumn.
  • St Kilda

    WebsiteSatellite View
    The ultimate site for breeding seabirds holding the largest colonies in the UK of Fulmars and Gannets, most of the UK population of Leach’s Petrels as well as large colonies of Storm Petrels and Puffins. Research here has included a PhD study to examine the interactions between Leach’s Petrels and Great Skuas (thought to kill almost 15,000 petrels annually). Outstanding rarities have been a male Harlequin Duck (the first record in Britain in this plumage for over 40 years), Black-browed Albatross, Solitary Sandpiper, Buff-bellied Pipit, Eyebrowed Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler (the third British record), Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler and Dark-eyed Junco (both firsts for the Outer Hebrides) and Yellow-breasted Bunting. Also present at the same time as the Blackburnian Warbler was a possible Northern Harrier or Marsh Hawk also from North America. Some other unusual visitors have included American Wigeon, Little Bittern (another first record), Night Heron, Gyr Falcon, a handful of North American waders (American Golden Plover and Pectoral, White-rumped and Buff-breasted Sandpipers), Laughing Gull, Short-toed Lark, Red-throated Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Subalpine Warbler, and Ortolan and Little Buntings. Also an impressive number of Snowy Owls with six different in one year followed by three or four in the following two years.
  • Sula Sgeir

    InformationSatellite View
    On Sula Sgeir 2,000 Gannet chicks (‘gugas’) are harvested annually for human consumption. During the 2005 harvest a Black-browed Albatross was discovered and many birders were able to catch up with this species in British waters by specially chartered trips during the following two years.
  • Brian Rabbitts

    Lochmaddy, North Uist | rabbitts@hebrides.net

  • Yvonne Benting

    South Uist | recorder@outerhebridesbirds.org.uk

County Recorder
Useful Reading

  • Birds of the Outer Hebrides

    | By Peter Cunningham | Mercat Press | 1990 | Paperback | 241 pages, B/w illustrations, 2 maps | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780906664193 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Where to Watch Birds in Scotland

    | By Mike Madders & Julia Welstead | Christopher Helm | 2002 | Paperback | 297 pages, b/w illustrations, maps | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780713656930 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birding Aps
  • Where to Watch Birds in Scotland

    Apple iOS | Android
    This app will help beginners and experts alike to discover hundreds of the best places to see and enjoy birds around the country.

    Where to Watch Birds in Scotland, the Scottish Ornithologists' Club's free mobile app for Apple and Android devices, now has over 580 sites. New sites will continue to be added and existing ones updated as far as possible. The app launched in April 2019 and since then has been downloaded by more than 15,000 users and amassed over 750,000 site views. It won 'Product of the Year' in Birdwatch and BirdGuides' 2019 Birders' Choice Awards, and the BTO/Marsh Award for Local Ornithology 2020.
Useful Information
  • *Latest Bird Report: Outer Hebrides

    Purchase Here
    Annual reports are published as hard copies and can ONLY be purchased through the Outer Hebrides Birds website.
  • App Where to Watch Birds in Scotland

    Developed by SOC
  • Outer Hebrides Bird and Wildlife Sightings

    Latest Outer Hebrides Bird and Wildlife Sightings - If you would like to join our WhatsApp group - Bird Sightings Outer Hebrides (for scarce / rare bird reports in the Outer Hebrides) please contact me: steveduffield70@gmail.com or text me on 07867 555971.
  • SOC Birdwatching Sites

    The following sites are listed in the publication Where to Watch Birds in Scotland (by Mike Madders and Julia Welstead)...
  • Status and Distribution

    It contains summaries for each and every species on each of the main islands and outliers. A species account has also been added for the majority of species documenting and displaying a great deal of background information and historical information including all known sightings for the rare and scarce birds. It is updated regularly and new species accounts are also added at regular intervals. By its very nature, it will always be a work in progress. The eBook, which is on sale via Amazon, only contains the species summaries.
  • Curracag - the Outer Hebrides Natural History Society

    Curracag is a small natural history society which encourages the study, recording and enjoyment of the wildlife of the islands of the Outer Hebrides. We welcome both novices and experts and encourage everyone to take an active part in local and national surveys and to help increase our knowledge of the fauna and flora of the islands which are still largely unrecorded.
  • Outer Hebrides Birds

    ...contains a great deal of information about all aspects of bird life on the islands from colour ring sightings and ringing recoveries to help with identification and rarity description forms. Of interest to most people is the daily sightings, the first forum on the home page...

Abbreviations Key

  • NNR Monach Isles, North Uist

    WebpageSatellite View
    These low lying sandy islands have superb machair and great numbers of black guillemots. Every autumn the islands play host to one of the most important colonies of grey seals in the world with some 10,000 seals coming ashore to calve here. Several hundred barnacle geese winter on the islands.
  • NNR Rona and Sula Sgeir, North Lewis

    InformationSatellite View
    This isolated rocky island has large numbers of breeding gannets and other seabirds.
  • NNR St Kilda

    WebpageSatellite View
    Remote and spectacular, St Kilda lies 41 miles (66 km) west of Benbecula. It has the largest seabird colony in the north-east Atlantic, and is home to almost a million birds, including a quarter of the world's population of gannets. St Kilda also has its own subspecies of wren and field mouse, as well as a wild flock of primitive Soay sheep.
  • RSPB Balranald, North Uist

    WebpageSatellite View
    Explore a wildlife-rich grassland haven on the beautiful Scottish island of North Uist. This stunning Hebridean nature reserve has sweeping sandy beaches, a rocky foreshore, wild marshes and sculpted sand dunes. It's the perfect place to learn about traditional crofting agriculture, corncrakes and other wildlife.
  • RSPB Loch Druidibeag

    InformationSatellite View
    The biosphere reserve also includes a Ramsar site. Loch Druidibeg was designated as a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1958. Following a review, it was de-declared as a National Nature Reserve in 2012. It is also part of the South Uist Machair Special Area of Conservation and the South Uist Machair and Lochs Special Protection Area.
  • RSPB Loch na Muilne

    WebpageSatellite View
    Discover this hidden loch which nestles within a vast expanse of the exposed Atlantic coastline on the Isle of Lewis. The reserve is home to the red-necked phalarope, a rare and unusual arctic wader which arrives in late May each year to breed.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • Curracag - the Outer Hebrides Natural History Society

    Facebook Page
    A discussion group run by Curracag - the Natural History Society for the Western Isles for members and anyone who is interested in our nature and landscape.
  • Outer Hebrides Birds

    Sightings & News
    We are a group of enthusiastic local birders who share our sightings and other information here. Feel free to read and browse. You are welcome to join us by signing up for an account. You can also email your sightings/photos to sightings@outerhebridesbirds.org.uk or leave a voicemail on 01851 741250 All submissions will be passed to the county bird recorder. Thanks!
Guides & Tour Operators
  • HeatherLea

    Tour Operator
    Outer Hebrides in Spring - Superb spring birding on the southern Outer Hebrides: North and South Uist, Benbecula and Berneray.
  • Hebridean Whale Cruises

    Hebridean Whale Cruises out of Gairloch (Highlands) will be starting full day pelagic chumming trips next year [2008](late April to June and late August to October). This service will be targeting the North Minch
  • Oriole Birding

    Tour Operator
    The Outer Hebrides is known as the last remaining stronghold for Corncrakes in the UK and we have timed our visit with the arrival of the majority of the population. Their rasping “crex crex” calls, which were so familiar in the early 20th century all over the country can still be heard on warm, still summer evenings on these most beautiful of islands. But that’s not all; Aird an Runair headland at Balranald has become internationally famous for its annual passage of Long-tailed and Pomarine Skuas in early May...
  • Sea Harris

    Sea Harris invite you to experience the breathtaking beauty & serenity of some the most fascinating Islands in the Outer Hebrides aboard the 'Enchanted Isle'
  • Speyside Wildlife

    Tour Operator
    Weaving our way slowly by land and sea, our vacation shall take us through the Outer Hebrides, from the southernmost point of Vatersay, Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, Berneray, Harris and Lewis. An incredible and diverse landscape, the Outer Hebrides has vast white beaches, rugged mountains, fertile machair, huge seascapes and amongst it all quite simply superb wildlife - Otters, Eagles, Harriers, Divers, Corncrakes, and a density of birds reminiscent of a golden age.
  • The Northern Light Cruising

    Tour Operator
    From the decks of our vessels, you can also take advantage of excellent opportunities for seawatching as we coincide with spring and autumn seabird passage in the Minch and other equally productive waters. It’s also possible to see other island specialities, with breeding birds such as Corncrakes, waders on the Machair and smaller passerines in Sessile oakwoods.
  • Walking & Wildlife Holidays

    Tour Operator
    The contrasts, from the unexpectedly hilly Harris and eastern seaboard of South Uist, to the long sweeps of glistening white sand and the colourful grasslands of the machair that form the western coast, and not forgetting the magical island of Eriskay, are something to be seen to be believed…
  • Western Isles Wildlife

    Tour Operator
    Western Isles Wildlife are the only bird and wildlife tour company based in the Western Isles / Outer Hebrides. We have been operating trips here since 2007 and have the most extensive and up to date information on the local wildlife and where to find it.
Trip Reports
  • 2019 [05 May] - Steve Duffield

    In late May I decided to go to an area of the country that I have never been to before, and one that keeps coming up in conversations as one of the best wildlife areas we have in the UK, The Outer Hebrides.
  • 2021 [05 May] - Neil Glenn

    PDF Report
    ...Anyway, it was time to settle down and do some birding from the upper deck. Over the course of the next seven hours, we managed to pick out two Great Skuas, several Great Northern Divers, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Black Guillemots, Manx Shearwaters, Puffins, etc. We also saw quite a few Short-beaked Common Dolphins along the way...
  • 2022 [04 April] - Michael Cook

    At the end of March into early April 2022, we had one week on Harris and Lewis and it was a great opportunity to catchup with the wildlife of the Outer Hebrides.
Places to Stay
  • Doune Braes Hotel - Lewis

    Doune Braes Hotel - A858, Isle of Lewis, Scotland HS2 9AA
  • Hotel Hebrides

    We are a newly refurbished hotel in the Outer Hebrides. We have close links with St Kilda Cruises and Sea Harris
Other Links
  • Birds of Prey Trail

    The Outer Hebrides are a stronghold for several of Scotland’s most iconic predators where vast open vistas provide fantastic opportunities to watch them in a spectacular environment.
  • Hebrides Bird Sightings

    Latest Outer Hebrides Bird and Wildlife Sightings 2019
  • St Kilda

    Seabirds formed a major part of the St Kildan diet, especially gannets, fulmars and puffins. At one time it was estimated that each person on St Kilda ate 115 fulmars every year. In 1876 it was said that the islanders took 89,600 puffins for food and feathers.
  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in OUTER HEBRIDES

    Best Birds and other wildlife in the Outer Hebrides...

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