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Norwegian nature and birdlife

Norway stretches approximately 2000 kilometers along a more or less north-south gradient, along this line you will find a variety of nature types and habitats, each with its own typical bird community.

Common Crane Grus grus
Photo (c) Kjetil Aa. Solbakken

Along the coasts the climate is humid (oceanic), and the temperatures differ surprisingly little along the north-south gradient. One need not move far inland, however, before this changes dramatically! In mid-winter it is possible to experience temperature differences of 50 degrees within the country, if the northern parts have a cold spell temperatures often drop below -40, while the southern coasts at the same time may have +8-10 degrees.

Around 45 % of the land is covered by mountain or mountain-like treeless terrain. While the tree-line is located at 1000-1200 m.a.s.l. in the south, this drops towards north and in Finnmark mountain habitat and mountain birds like Willow Grouse also occur along the coast. Although not the most species-rich habitat, many of the most sought-after species in Scandinavia such as Common Crane, Gyrfalcon, Dotterel, Red-necked Phalarope, Great Snipe, Bluethroat and Lapland Bunting inhabit the mountain areas.

Various types of woodland cover a little less than 40 %, and the woodland scenery is very different in the different parts. Along the western fjordlands the hillsides are too steep for forestry, and the original mixed deciduos woodland, often mixed with pine, is still the home of hundreds of pairs of White-backed Woodpecker and a variety of other woodland birds. Towards the western mountain areas, typically pinewoods are replaced by birch for the last couple of hundred meters below the tree line. Moving east of the mountains, pine and spruce are dominating, and forestry is more developed. In these lowlands north of Oslo and around Trondheim, both climate, vegetation, and birdlife is quite different from the western parts.

Scattered in between the main habitat types (mountains and woodland) 3.3 % agricultural land and 6 % wetlands add to the diversity, giving room for 280 breeding bird species and another 170 that pay a visit now and then.

Still, the most internationally important bird populations are located along the coastline in the northern two-thirds of the country. Colonies with six-figure numbers of breeding Atlantic Puffins and Black-legged Kittiwakes are found several places, the most famous are probably Runde and the Lofoten islands. Large numbers of other seabirds such as Northern Fulmar, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, European Shag, Common Eider, Razorbill, Common and Brunnich's Guillemot, Black Guillemot, and various skuas, gulls and terns add to the spectacle. But to experience all of these species at once only birding the northern coasts of Finnmark gives a certain guarantee.

Some of the most spectacular summer birding in Europe can be experienced along the Varanger Peninsula and entering the Pasvik taiga forest. A week or ten days birding should produce much sought-after species such as the above mentioned seabirds, White-billed Diver, King Eider, Steller's Eider, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Three-toed Woodpecker, Shore lark, Red-throated pipit, Arctic Warbler, Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay, Pine Grosbeak and much more.

Feel like visiting? Check out our trips for more information and species lists!

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