Beasts Of Iceland: The Puffin - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Beasts Of Iceland: The Puffin

Beasts Of Iceland: The Puffin

Published August 24, 2017

Hannah Jane Cohen
Photos by
Magnus Manske

After a mosey about the Golden Circle, you—our tourist reader—might be wondering, “How the hell does any animal survive on this godforsaken Atlantic rock?” It’s a fair question. With its lack of vegetation, merciless climate, and general all-around uncomfortableness, Iceland is not an easy place for any living being to survive. That said, there are a number of cool fauna in the country to explore.

So, let’s meet the…

Puffin

Next to Sigmundur Davíð’s unfortunate face, the puffin, or fratercula arctica, may as well be the mascot of Iceland. You can pay lots of money to go look at them on boats in the harbour, or drop even more króna for a stuffed version in one of the many Puffin shops around town—which is totally a sound investment; stuffed animals last a lifetime.

Puffins

The bird resembles a penguin with red paint on its beak. It’s striking—hence the popularity of the stuffed versions. The flock migrates to Iceland in early April, 100% DTB—down to breed. They are relatively conservative though, mating for life, so you may as well call them the only Catholics in Iceland. That said, they spend their winters alone flying over the ocean, which is pretty emo and artsy. Puffin poetry must be dope.

The Gene Simmons Of Iceland

Puffins subsist mainly on herring and sand eels. Using their weirdly strong tongues, the birds can hold up to sixty fish in their mouth at a time—gross, right?

While they have many predators, the biggest one is the Icelander. The fresh heart of a puffin is eaten raw as a traditional Icelandic delicacy and Icelandic chefs are constantly cooking ‘em up all over the country to the delight of visiting foodies, who can then go home and say, “I ate puffin!” Woohoo!

If you are just dying to see them in the wild though, there are large populations at Látrabjarg in the Westfjords, Dyrhólaey on the south coast, Ingólfshöfði, and the Westman islands. Of course, if that’s too far to go, you can always buy a stuffed one on Laugavegur.

Check out more beats of Iceland here. 


Show Me More!