Animals in Iceland

  • 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 137 animals in Iceland and add more daily — so check back often!

Iceland Geography

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 Animals

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.

Iceland Mammals

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 Birds

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.

Iceland Insects

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

Ant

First evolved 100 million years ago!

Arctic Fox

Extremely thick winter fur!

Armyworm

They are so named because they "march" in armies of worms from one crop to another in search of food

Aurochs

Extinct ancestor of all domesticated cattle!

Badger

Can reach speeds of 30 km/h!

Barn Owl

Found everywhere around the world!

Bat

Detects prey using echolocation!

Beetle

There are more than 350,000 different species

Bird

Not all birds are able to fly!

Black Widow Spider

They typically prey on insects!

Bumblebee

The most common species of bee!

Butterfly

There are thought to be up 20,000 species!

Camel Cricket

The camel crickets that are found in the USA are light brown in color. They also have dark streaks all over their body.

Caribou

Males and females grow antlers

Cat

First domesticated by the Ancient Egyptians!

Caterpillar

The larvae of a moth or butterfly!

Catfish

There are nearly 3,000 different species!

Centipede

There are about 3,000 documented species!

Chamois

Natively found in the European mountains!

Chicken

First domesticated more than 10,000 years ago!

Cockroach

Dated to be around 300 million years old!

Common Buzzard

The most common raptor in the UK!

Common House Spider

House spiders have the ability to eat most insects in a home.

Common Loon

Also known as the Great Northern Diver

Cow

There are nearly 1.5 million worldwide!

Crab

There are 93 different crab groups

Crab Spider

Crab Spiders can mimic ants or bird droppings

Crane

Many are critically endangered species!

Deer

There are around 40 different species!

Dog

First domesticated in South-East Asia!

Donkey

First domesticated 5,000 years ago!

Dormouse

Found in Europe, Africa and Asia!

Dragonfly

It's larvae are carnivorous!

Duck

Rows of tiny plates line their teeth!

Eagle

Has exceptional eyesight!

Earwig

There are nearly 2,000 different species!

Edible Frog

Are known to guard the muddy banks!

Eel

Eels can be a mere few inches long to 13 feet!

Falcon

The fastest creatures on the planet!

Ferret

Ferrets can be trained to do tricks like dogs!

Fly

There are more than 240,000 different species!

Flying Squirrel

Can glide up to 90 meters!

Fox

There are 12 different species in the world!

Frog

There are around 7,000 different species!

Glass Lizard

Can grow up to 4ft long!

Glow Worm

Found inhabiting dense woodland and caves!

Goat

Most closely related to the Sheep!

Golden Oriole

Migrates between Europe and Asia!

Goose

There are 29 different species!

Grasshopper

There are 11,000 known species!

Hamster

Able to run as quickly backwards as forwards!

Hare

Can reach speeds of over 40 mph!

Hedgehog

Thought to be one of the oldest mammals on Earth!

Heron

Inhabits wetlands around the world!

Highland Cattle

Natively found in the Scottish Highlands!

Honey Bee

There are only 8 recognized species!

Hoopoe

Stunning bird with a stinky way to deter predators!

Horse

Has evolved over 50 million years!

Horsefly

Horseflies have been seen performing Immelmann turns, much like fighter jets.

Human

Thought to have orignated 200,000 years ago!

Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog is the only dog breed entirely native to Iceland.

Insects

There are an estimated 30 million species!

Kingfisher

Inhabits wetlands and woodlands worldwide!

Ladybug

There are more than 5,000 species worldwide!

Lemming

Does not hibernate during the bitter Arctic winter!

Lizard

There are around 5,000 different species!

Long-Eared Owl

Ear tufts make it look bigger!

Magpie

They are found across Europe, Asia and Africa!

Marsh Frog

Has bright green skin!

Mayfly

There are 2,500 known species worldwide!

Mealybug

They have a symbiotic relationship with ants.

Millipede

Some species have a poisonous bite!

Mole

Primarily hunts and feeds on Earthworms!

Mongrel

Has characteristics of two or more breeds!

Moorhen

Feeds on aquatic insects and water-spiders!

Moose

Renews it's enormous antlers every year!

Moth

There are 250,000 different species!

Mouse

Found on every continent on Earth!

Mule

The offspring of a horse and donkey parents!

Neanderthal

Roamed Asia and Europe for around 100,000 years!

Newt

Able to regrow lost or damaged limbs!

Nightingale

Named more than 1,000 years ago!

Orb Weaver

Females are about four times the size of males

Otter

There are 13 different species worldwide

Pheasant

Females lay between 8 and 12 eggs per clutch!

Pig

Thought to have been domesticated in 9,000 BC!

Pigeon

They can find their way back to their nests from up to 1300 miles away.

Pika

Found in mountainous regions and rocky areas

Pike Fish

Apex freshwater predators with fearsome teeth!

Pond Skater

There are 500 different species!

Pool Frog

The rarest amphibian in the UK!

Porcupine

There are 30 different species worldwide!

Porpoise

Surprisingly, not a dolphin!

Puffin

Can remain in the water for up to 2 minutes!

Purple Emperor Butterfly

Inhabits deciduous forests!

Puss Moth

Caterpillars squirt formic acid!

Quail

Inhabits woodland and forest areas worldwide!

Rabbit

There are more than 50 different species!

Raccoon

Known to wash their food before eating it!

Raccoon Dog

The only hibernating canine!

Rat

Omnivores that eat anything!

Reindeer

Also known as the Caribou

River Turtle

Inhabits freshwater habitats around the world!

Robin

There are more than 45 species in Australia alone!

Rodents

The capybara, the world’s largest rodent, likes to be in and around bodies of water. Because of this, the Catholic Church in South America decided that it was a fish, and people were allowed to eat it during Lent and First Fridays.

Salamander

There are more than 700 different species!

Scorpion

There are around 2,000 known species!

Seahorse

Males give birth to up to 1,000 offspring!

Sheep

Around 35 million in the English countryside!

Shrimp

There are 2,000 different species worldwide!

Skink Lizard

Some skinks lay eggs in some habitats while giving birth to skinklets in other habitats.

Slow Worm

Found widely throughout British gardens!

Snail

There are nearly 1,000 different species!

Snake

There are around 3,000 known species worldwide

Snowy Owl

One of the largest owl species in the world!

Spadefoot Toad

They spend most of their time underground!

Sparrow

There are 140 different species!

Squirrel

Small rodents found in woodlands worldwide!

Stick Insect

There are more than 3,000 different species!

Stoat

Average adults weigh about 200 grams!

Swan

Populations have been affected by pollution!

Tawny Owl

The most widespread owl in Europe!

Termite

Their mounds can be up to 9 meters tall!

Tiger Beetle

The adult tiger beetle is one of the fastest land insects in the world

Tiger Moth

The bright colors of this moth are a signal to predators that it has a terrible taste.

Tree Frog

Found in warmer jungles and forests!

Turtles

Some species of aquatic turtles can get up to 70 percent of their oxygen through their butt.

Vulture

There are 30 different species worldwide!

Wasp

There are around 75,000 recognised species!

Water Buffalo

Has been domesticated for thousands of years!

Water Vole

The largest Vole species in the UK!

Weasel

The smallest carnivorous mammal in the world!

White-Tailed Eagle

It is one of the biggest birds of prey.

Wolf

Thought to date back more than 300,000 years!

Wolf Spider

Carnivorous arachnid that hunts its prey.

Woodlouse

This animal can roll up into a ball

Woodpecker

There are 200 different species!

Icelandic Animals List