Skye sea bird guide – what to see and where

Skye, and its neighbouring islands, are home to many of the UK’s breeding seabirds.  Skye may not have the huge sea bird colonies that some west coast sites boast but the birds are there if you know where to look.  This Skye sea bird guide will help you know what to look for and where.

Puffins, probably everyone’s favourite sea bird are found around the Skye coast with several breeding sites on offshore islands ensuring that the birds can be seen, sometimes from the shore. The sizeable colony on Sanday, adjacent to Canna, are best seen by boat from Elgol.  Try Misty Isle Boat Trips or Bella Jane Boat Trips for details.

Skye puffins

Skye puffins

There are good numbers of Kittiwakes, the pretty but noisy gulls, that nests in colonies near Sleat Point and on the island of Rum. Rum is home to the biggest population of Manx Shearwaters in Britain and the birds are often seen in the sea lochs around Elgol rafting up in late afternoon before returning to their nesting burrows on Rum at night.

Gannets nest no nearer to Skye than the Outer Hebrides but are frequently seen plunge diving off the Skye coast in the search for food. Guillemots and Razorbills breed on the Rum cliffs and are best seen from a boat trip.

Gathering of Guillemots

Gathering of Guillemots

Two birds that breed locally to Elgol are Shags and Fulmars.  Shags are often seen in their distinctive “wing drying” pose on rocky outcrops or diving from the surface of the sea for food.

Fulmars fly with a very distinctive stiff-winged style that enables them to soar above the waves and around the cliffs, almost effortlessly.  The headlands between Elgol jetty and Strathaird Island provide excellent vantage points for these and other seabirds, including Black Guillemots, small mainly black birds with distinctive white wing patches, that dive from the surface for food.

Fulmars nesting near Strathaird Point

Fulmars nesting near Strathaird Point

Guests at Springbank, our Skye self catering holiday cottage, have exclusive use of binoculars and a telescope as part of our environmental activities offer.  There are also books, maps and guides to help you decide where to go and what to look for and there are bird guides to other species elsewhere on this site.