Nature & Environment Jun 18, 2015

Black-Legged Kittiwake on Snaefellsnes

This fascinating species of birds can be found nesting on the cliffs of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula where they risk their lives to survive.

The Black-legged Kittiwake are coastal breeding birds that often nest on the steep cliffs of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland. The surrounding waters smash against the black basalt cliffs, creating dangerous hunting conditions for the birds. The cliffs are a magnificent place to visit as travelers can enjoy the beauty of the sea as well as the views of the peninsula’s various volcanoes.  

Snaefellsnes is a peninsula located in the west region of Iceland and is home to many friendly towns and villages and a multitude of animal and bird species. An easy bus trip from Reykjavik, Snaefellsnes is known for its diverse landscape, with the magnificent Snæfellsjökull glacier being one of its main attractions. On the peninsula, you can visit its many sweeping golden beaches as well as explore the impressive views of its volcanic peaks.

One of the most captivating species found on Snaefellsnes is the daring Black-legged Kittiwake that perch on the treacherous ledges above Grundarfjörður, Iceland’s turbulent sea. Mark Seth Lender, an essayist for Living On Earth, describes his observations of the Kittiwake in his creative essay, “Kittiwake: A Life On Edge.” He writes, “Their dark eyes, their black feet joined to this black place; until they spread their wings. Swooping like reckless kites down toward the gaping hunger of the sea.” The tumultuous waves threaten the birds as they try to catch fish every day.

Lender describes the power of the waves saying, “Pebbles that were bed rock leap as the breakers crash, roll like rain fall into the trailing spume; husssssh as the sea flows out, wusssssh, as the sea flows in. Small and small the ocean grinds volcanoes into sand. Ashes to ash, smoke to dust.”

If you would like to read more of Lender’s essay and hear more about Black-legged Kittiwake, check it out here!