Birdwatching in the far north of Scotland

Our wee corner of Scotland is a haven for birdwatching. Guests staying at Mackays Hotel or one of our holiday homes can enjoy some wonderful sightings. From seabirds along the dramatic coastline to woodland birds in the forests, there is a wide variety of birdlife to see during a visit to Caithness. Popular spots for birdwatching include the RSPB nature reserve at Dunnet Head and the Forestry Commision’s Rumster Forest.

10 birds to look out for:

Here are some of our favourite species to look out for on your next stay with us in Caithness.

Golden eagle

This huge bird of prey is an icon of Scotland. The golden eagle can be found in the far north, soaring high above mountains and moorlands.

A golden eagle perched on a branch


Puffins gather at clifftop sites on the Caithness coastline during breeding season, from around April to July. These characterful birds are very distinctive with black and white bodies and bright stripy beaks.

Puffins on the cliffs at Dunnet Head, Caithness

Barn owl

Caithness is believed to have the most northerly barn owls in the world. They are mostly nocturnal, but you might also spot them hunting during the day. Look for them over grassland, fields and verges.

A hunting barn owl in flight


The guillemot is seen along the coastline, on the rocky cliffs and sea stacks. They come to the coast to breed from around April to August, but may be spotted all year round.

Guillemots on the cliffs in Scotland


Razorbills are similar to guillemots, distinguished by their short beak with a white stripe. Like the guillemot, you are most likely to see them during the summer breeding season.

Razorbill perched on a cliffside

Whooper swan

The whooper swan is large with a black and yellow bill. Mostly seen in Caithness over the winter, they make a distinctive whooping sound, hence the name.

Whooper swans on the water


The fulmar is a common Scottish seabird. They breed on the cliffs, but you can spot them offshore on the north coast all year round.

Fulmar seabird in flight, Scotland


Buzzards are commonly spotted in the north of Scotland. You might see these medium-sized birds waiting in the trees for prey, mainly in woodland and moorland habitats.

A buzzard waiting in the trees for prey


Kittiwakes are the only gulls to dive underwater in search of prey. Spotted in the summer breeding season, they are white and grey with black-tipped wings.

Kittiwake in Scotland


This is a rare but exciting spot, found in Scotland over the summer. The osprey swoops into lochs to catch fish and grabs them out of the water.

Osprey swooping to catch a fish

Wick makes a great base for birdwatching breaks in Caithness. Book your stay at Mackays Hotel today! Follow Caithness Birds for more birdwatching tips in our local area.

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