Animals in Iceland

Updated: February 24, 2023
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  • 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 178 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.

Spiders Found in Iceland

None of the spiders in Iceland have potent venom, so there shouldn’t be any worry about fatal injury from one. If you have any allergies to spiders or their bites, that might be a different story; however, for most, there are no concerns.

The largest spider in Iceland is the European garden spider. It is an orbweaver spider — several of which live in Iceland — meaning it weaves its webs into the shape of an orb. Other strange species of spider in Iceland include the barn funnel weaver, which weaves its webs in funnels and hides in them, making them a rare sight; as well as the common stretch spider, a long-jawed spider with legs that stretch out in front of their bodies.

As fascinating as many of its spider species are, again, none are dangerous to humans, and are ultimately harmless.

The Flag of Iceland

The flag of Iceland consists of red, blue, and white colors, with a Scandinavian cross taking up the center of the flag. This cross signifies that the flag aligns with other Nordic flags.

Icelandic Animals

Admiral Butterfly

Stunningly beautiful wings


First evolved 100 million years ago!

Arctic Char

Arctic char is the northern-most fish; no other fish lives anywhere further north!

Arctic Fox

Extremely thick winter fur!


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

Atlantic Cod

One of the most popular food fishes in the world


Extinct ancestor of all domesticated cattle!


Can reach speeds of 30 km/h!

Barn Owl

Found everywhere around the world!


Detects prey using echolocation!

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs feed for 4-12 minutes.


Rock paintings of bees date back 15,000 years


There are more than 350,000 different species


Not all birds are able to fly!

Biscuit Beetle

The biscuit beetle form a symbiotic relationship with yeast

Black Widow Spider

They typically prey on insects!

Brown Dog Tick

Can live its entire life indoors


The most common species of bee!


There are thought to be up 17,500 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.


Males and females grow antlers


May have been domesticated up to 10,000 years ago.


The larvae of a moth or butterfly!


There are nearly 3,000 different species!


There are about 3,000 documented species!


Natively found in the European mountains!


First domesticated more than 10,000 years ago!


Dated to be around 300 million years old!

Codling Moth

Pupae are able to undergo diapause to survive poor fruit yield years and winter.

Common Buzzard

The most common raptor in the UK!

Common Furniture Beetle

The common furniture beetle feeds exclusively on wood

Common House Spider

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

Common Loon

Also known as the Great Northern Diver


They can fly 35 mph and dive 150 feet below water.


There are nearly 1.5 billion worldwide!


There are 93 different crab groups

Crab Spider

Crab Spiders can mimic ants or bird droppings


Many are critically endangered species!


There are around 40 different species!


First domesticated in South-East Asia!

Dog Tick

Dog ticks feed on dogs and other mammals


First domesticated 5,000 years ago!


Found in Europe, Africa and Asia!


It's larvae are carnivorous!


Rows of tiny plates line their teeth!


Has exceptional eyesight!


They are hermaphrodites, which means they have male and female organs


There are nearly 2,000 different species!

Edible Frog

Are known to guard the muddy banks!


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


Eiders are sexually dimorphic, with males being larger and more colorful.

European Goldfinch

They are frequent visitors to backyard feeders, especially those containing niger seeds.


The fastest creatures on the planet!


Ferrets can be trained to do tricks like dogs!


The firefly produces some of the most efficient light in the world


Adult fleas can jump up to 7 inches in the air


There are more than 240,000 different species!

Flying Squirrel

Can glide up to 90 meters!


Only 12 species are considered "true foxes"


There are around 7,000 different species!

Fruit Fly

Fruit flies are among the most common research animals in the world

German Cockroach

The most common type of urban roach

Giant House Spider

They are the fastest invertebrates in the U.K.

Glass Lizard

Can grow up to 4ft long!


Found inhabiting dense woodland and caves!


Most closely related to the Sheep!

Golden Oriole

Migrates between Europe and Asia!


There are 29 different species!


There are 11,000 known species!

Gypsy Moth

One of the most invasive species in the world


Able to run as quickly backwards as forwards!

Harbor Porpoise

Surprisingly, not a dolphin!


Can reach speeds of over 50 mph!

Hawk Moth Caterpillar

Many hawk moth caterpillars eat toxins from plants, but don’t sequester them the way milkweed butterflies do. Most toxins are excreted.


Thought to be one of the oldest mammals on Earth!


Inhabits wetlands around the world!

Highland Cattle

Natively found in the Scottish Highlands!

Honey Bee

There are only 8 recognized species!


Stunning bird with a stinky way to deter predators!


Has evolved over 50 million years!


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


The fly has no teeth


Thought to have orignated 200,000 years ago!

Icelandic Sheepdog

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


There are an estimated 30 million species!

Jumping Spider

Some can jump 50 times the length of their bodies

King Eider

The species name, spectabilis, is Latin for “showy” or “remarkable,” referencing the attractiveness of the adult male’s plumage.


Inhabits wetlands and woodlands worldwide!


There are more than 5,000 species worldwide!


Has 10 pairs of eyes!


Does not hibernate during the bitter Arctic winter!


There are around 5,000 different species!

Long-Eared Owl

Ear tufts make it look bigger!

Long-Tailed Tit

Often hangs upside down while feeding!


They are found across Europe, Asia and Africa!

Marsh Frog

Has bright green skin!


There are 2,500 known species worldwide!


They have a symbiotic relationship with ants.


They line their nests with their feathers


Some species have a poisonous bite!


Primarily hunts and feeds on Earthworms!


Has characteristics of two or more breeds!


Feeds on aquatic insects and water-spiders!


Renews it's enormous antlers every year!


Only the female mosquito actually sucks blood


There are 250,000 different species!


Found on every continent on Earth!


The offspring of a horse and donkey parents!


Roamed Asia and Europe for around 100,000 years!


Nematodes range in size from 1/10 of an inch to 28 feet long


Able to regrow lost or damaged limbs!


Named more than 1,000 years ago!

Northern Pintail

Northern pintails migrate at night with speeds reaching 48 miles per hour!

Orb Weaver

Females are about four times the size of males


They reuse nesting sites for 70 years!


There are 13 different species worldwide


The owl can rotate its head some 270 degrees


Females lay between 8 and 12 eggs per clutch!


Thought to have been domesticated in 9,000 BC!


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


Found in mountainous regions and rocky areas

Pond Skater

There are 500 different species!

Pool Frog

The rarest amphibian in the UK!


There are 30 different species worldwide!


Can remain in the water for up to 2 minutes!

Purple Emperor Butterfly

Inhabits deciduous forests!

Puss Moth

Caterpillars squirt formic acid!


Inhabits woodland and forest areas worldwide!


There are more than 300 different species!


Known to wash their food before eating it!

Raccoon Dog

The only hibernating canine!


Omnivores that eat anything!


Also known as the Caribou

River Turtle

Inhabits freshwater habitats around the world!


There are more than 45 species in Australia alone!


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.


Will mate with the entire flock!


There are more than 700 different species!

Sand Crab

The sand crab burrows beneath the sand with its tail


There are around 2,000 known species!

Sea Eagle

The sea eagle tends to mate for life with a single partner


Males give birth to up to 1,000 offspring!


Around 35 million in the English countryside!

Short-Eared Owl

The short-eared owl is one of the most widespread owl species in the world, covering five continents.


The spinal column of the shrew Scutisorex somereni is so strong and reinforced that it can support the weight of an adult human.


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!

Smokybrown Cockroach

Has up to 45 eggs per egg case


There are nearly 1,000 different species!


There are around 4,000 known species worldwide

Snowy Owl

One of the largest owl species in the world!

Song Thrush

A male song thrush can have over 100 phrases in his repertoire of songs and can imitate pet birds, telephones and other man-made objects.

Spadefoot Toad

They spend most of their time underground!


There are 140 different species!


Small rodents found in woodlands worldwide!

Stick Insect

There are more than 3,000 different species!


Average adults weigh about 200 grams!


Populations have been affected by pollution!

Tawny Owl

The most widespread owl in Europe!


Their mounds can be up to 9 meters tall!

Thornback Ray

The skate with the biggest spines!

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!


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


Vipers are one of the most widespread groups of snakes and inhabit most


There are 30 different species worldwide!


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!


The smallest carnivorous mammal in the world!

White-Tailed Eagle

It is one of the biggest birds of prey.


"Whiting" can refer to certain other species of ray-finned fish


Thought to date back more than 300,000 years!

Wolf Spider

Carnivorous arachnid that hunts its prey.


This animal can roll up into a ball


There are 200 different species!


Doesn’t have eyes.

Xeme (Sabine’s Gull)

They follow after seals and whales to eat their scraps.

Icelandic Animals List

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