Birdwatching in Vadsø and Ekkerøy

Vadsø and Ekkerøy are among the mandatory highlights for those making a birdwatching visit to Varanger. These places offer their own distinct, spectacular experiences and are like a string of pearls together with other exciting birding localities near the main road E75 along Varangerfjorden.


Map over Vadsø

1Vadsø harbour west
2Bird hide
4Marina, Ytrebyen
6Dammen (The Pond)

Vadsø has around 5,000 inhabitants. Through many years, the locals have experienced the great attraction the Varanger Coast has on birders and birdwatchers. Almost every birdwatcher will make a longer stopover in Vadsø. Not only does this town provide all the conveniences a town has to offer, it also provides a teeming birdlife—in town!

The harbour is regularly visited by fishing boats, and consequently, large gull flocks from time to time. There are good chances of seeing Iceland Gulls and Glaucous Gulls among these. During winter and early spring, you will also find large flocks of diving ducks, King Eider and Steller’s Eider in this harbour, among others. You can take pictures very close up from a floating private-owned photo hide.

The vast mudflats on the eastern side of town, between the island Vadsøya and the mainland are the best places for waders in Finnmark in the spring, and they are also good in the autumn. Dunlin, Red Knot, and Bar-tailed Godwit are among the most common species in the spring. Additionally, many gulls and ducks stage here.

Located on the eastern side of Vadsøya is Vadsøydammen, a small forest lake primarily known for its many Red-necked Phalaropes and several breeding Red-throated Pipit pairs. Moreover, you will find many ducks, waders, and passerines as well.

Map over Kibymyra and Salttjern

2Store Salttjern
3Lille Salttjern

Kibymyra is a non-preserved wetland area just northeast of Vadsø town. Here, you will find many popular breeding species, for example Greater Scaup, Red-necked Phalarope, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Jack Snipe, Willow Ptarmigan, Long-tailed Jaeger, Arctic Skua, Bluethroat, and Lapland Longspur.

Salttjern is a small village along the main road E75 towards Ekkerøy. A good tip here is to check the marina on the western side of the village, but the most exciting thing is the bay with rotten seaweed on the eastern side, as well as the rock slopes surrounding it. Because the bay is well shielded, you will at times see more birds here than other places. Late May you might get to experience this place coloured in orange by the thousands of Red Knots. In addition, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Common Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Red-necked Phalarope, Eurasian Oystercatcher, and Ruddy Turnstone are common species. In the autumn, Little Stint and Spotted Redshank are quite common. This place is also well visited by ducks, gulls, passerines, and birds of prey. So, when birdwatching along E75 in Varanger, do yourself a favour and don’t skip Salttjern.

Map over Ekkerøy

1Bird hide Yttersida
3Bird cliff
4Ekkerøy harbour

Ekkerøy is actually not an island but a peninsula, stretching out just where the landscape turns northwards again. The landscape on this peninsula offers a lot— grassy fields, heath fields, fresh waters, bird cliffs, sandy beaches, and sea and low tide areas with rotten seaweed. You can follow a path through the nature reserve, where you’ll also find information along the way. This is a popular hike, even for people who are not dedicated birdwatchers.

The area oftentimes has great amounts of staging waders. Additionally, species like Red-throated Pipit, Rock Pipit, and Horned Lark are quite common here. The island itself has a spectacular bird cliff, dominated by tens of thousands of noisy Black-legged Kittiwakes. A few Black Guillemots also breed here, while the Razorbill and Common Murre are occasional guests. You should also seize the opportunity while on the plateau to look for other exciting species, like Common Loon, Yellow-billed Loon, ducks and other seabirds. You might even get to see some birds of prey or owls hunting, for example White-tailed Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk, Short-eared Owl, Peregrine Falcon, and Gyrfalcon.

Helpful Information

Biotope:Wetlands, harbour environment and bird cliffs.
Best time to visit:All year. The summer part of the year offers more different species.
Early spring for King Eider and Steller’s Eider.
Bird towers:One bird hide in Ekkerøy + one bird hide in Vadsø + one private-owned floating bird hide in Vadsø harbour.
Terrain:Flat around Vadsø.
Slightly hilly on the way to Kibymyra and Ekkerøy.
Local association:NOF Varanger
Shoes:Water proof hiking boots.
Food:Recommended, although supermarkets are close.
Clothes:Casual clothes or hiking wear.



Birdingbed cooperates with long-time experienced guides in customizing personalized birdwatching experiences like…

  • excursions to see owls, woodpeckers, birds of prey and more.
  • Black Grouse lek, Capercaillie lek, bird cliffs, among other things
  • photography trips.
  • finding specific species.

For guided excursions in this area, contact Anders Faugstad Mæland through the web page Birdwatching Norway

Did you know …

… that the first observations of both Semipalmated Plover and Greater Spotted Eagle in Norway was made from Vadsøya, only separated by a few days in May 2001?

… that Norway’s first Caspian Plover was discovered near Ekkerøy in 1978?

… that the best locality for waders in Finnmark in the spring is located in Vadsø?

Bird Species Seen in the Area

Landscape Pictures

Some of the Birds near Vadsø and Ekkerøy

Key Map
Helpful Links
(also in english)