- National Animal of Iceland: Gyrfalcon
- Approximate Number of Animal Species in Iceland (Excluding Insects, Bacteria, Viruses, Invertebrates): 675
- Most Dangerous Animal in Iceland: Arctic Terns
Below you’ll find a complete list of Icelandic animals — with pictures. We currently track 122 animals in Iceland and add more daily — so check back often!
A volcanic outcrop shaped by wind and water erosion, isolated Iceland sits between the northern Atlantic Ocean and the Norwegian Sea. The country is about the size of Kentucky and contains several ecological features, including highlands, lava fields, tundras, coastal plains, lakes, and fast-flowing rivers. Off the north, east, and west coasts, dozens of islets form a natural maze of breathtaking fjords.
Despite its topographic splendor, Iceland’s remote location limits its biodiversity. But the animals that do inhabit the picturesque landscape rank among the most iconic and fascinating.
Iceland is home to about 28 mammal and 270 marine species. Seventy-two bird species breed on the island, and 378 spend time in the region yearly. According to reports, scientists have spotted about 1,245 insect species, but many holes remain in Iceland’s arthropodic research.
As for reptiles and amphibians, Iceland has none.
In the popular imagination, reindeer are iconically Icelandic. But in reality, the animals aren’t natives. Norwegians brought the majestic bucks and fawns over in the 1700s for herding purposes. Today, they mainly live in the wild. Humans also introduced minks and several mice species to the region.
Polar bears are another source of Icelandic wildlife apocrypha. Yes, the white bears sometimes land on the island, but they’re not endemic to the area. Occasionally, a polar bear will find itself on an ice drift traveling from Greenland — but most are shot upon arrival for public safety reasons. In fact, Iceland’s only native land mammal is the Arctic fox.
What’s the one mammal you’ll see everywhere in Iceland? Sheep!
Iceland enjoys a diaspora of avifauna, and several notable species spend time on the island. According to the 2016 Icelandic Birding Pages’ count, researchers have confirmed 378 species. Since then, eBird members have added 22.
Despite being endangered internationally, Atlantic puffins — the eye-catching flyers with cubist faces — are plentiful. Also, half the world’s great skuas breed in the region.
Common Icelandic birds include sandpipers, ducks, ospreys, New World warblers, larks, and storks.
It’s a rarity to see “perching birds” in Iceland. A lack of insects makes the region inhospitable to the three-toed flyers.
Iceland Fish and Marine Species
Atlantic salmon, brown trout, Arctic char, and European eels boast healthy Icelandic populations. The country’s main commercial fishing catches are cod, herring, haddock, capelin, sea perch, and blue whiting.
Icelandic waters and coasts host a variety of marine mammals. Harbor seals and grey seals breed on the country’s beaches. Plus, over 20 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises inhabit the surrounding waters.
There are no bugs in Iceland! It’s a common belief, but it’s wrong. Sure, Iceland isn’t Australia, with its estimated 250,000 bug species. But researchers have observed over 1,000 insects on the Nordic isle.
One of the more pervasive Icelandic insects is the midge. There’s even a lake named after them — Mývatn (“Midge Lake”) — and two species of the flying gnat “summer” on the island. Lake midges are the harmless strain; they never bite but do swarm. Conversely, black flies, the other midge subspecies, bite — but their nibbles are more annoying than painful.
Additionally, dozens of moths and butterflies help keep the Icelandic ecosystem balanced.
Iceland’s Endangered and Expatriated Animals
Are there endangered animals in Iceland? Yes.
Of Iceland’s approximate 675 mammals, birds, and marine species, about 28 of them land on a regional, federal, or international endangered species list. Examples include Atlantic puffins, Beluga whales, narwhals, and hooded seals.
Does Iceland have any expatriated species? Yes. Before humans arrived, walruses occupied the country’s coastal regions. However, they moved on once humans landed.
National Animal of Iceland
Widely praised as the most attractive falcon, gyrfalcons sport downy white feathers punctuated with gray and black. Gyrfalcons are also the largest falcon species and have 4-foot wingspans. The bird of prey eats fish and small mammals but presents no danger to humans.
Icelanders appreciate gyrfalcons’ beauty and hunting abilities, and the species has long been important to the island’s native peoples.
Most Dangerous Animals in Iceland
In Iceland, the weather is more likely to harm you than any resident animal. Rogue polar bears that float over on ice barges from Greenland have lethal power. However, wildlife rangers usually euthanize them to protect the public.
In terms of dangerous animals in Iceland, that leaves the Arctic terns, a sleek migratory bird. If you bother their nests, Arctic terns may aggressively peck at you. Annoying? Yes. Fatal? Not a chance.
Icelandic Animals List
- Arctic Fox
- Barn Owl
- Black Widow Spider
- Common Buzzard
- Common Loon
- Edible Frog
- Flying Squirrel
- Glass Lizard
- Glow Worm
- Golden Oriole
- Highland Cattle
- Honey Bee
- Long-Eared Owl
- Marsh Frog
- Pike Fish
- Pond Skater
- Pool Frog
- Purple Emperor Butterfly
- Puss Moth
- Raccoon Dog
- River Turtle
- Slow Worm
- Snowy Owl
- Spadefoot Toad
- Stag Beetle
- Stick Insect
- Tawny Owl
- Tree Frog
- Water Buffalo
- Water Vole
- Wolf Spider