Birdwatching in Hornøya and Vardø

A visit to Hornøya is something you will never forget. About 80,000 seabirds live here side-by-side in the summer. In other words, birdlife here is indescribably teeming. This was well captured in the popular television program about Hornøya, which Norway’s national TV station, NRK, broadcasted. If the island wasn’t well-known before this series, it surely is now. Hornøya og Reinøya Naturreservat (Hornøya and Reinøya Nature Reserve) is the official name of the reserve, which also includes the neighbouring island.

Birds in Hornøya and Reinøya
A trip around Hornøya will almost guarantee you all of the traditional bird-cliff species. The exception is the Northern Gannet, which does not breed here. Northern Fulmars are also scarce. However, there is a real bonus waiting for you—a colony of about 500 pairs of Thick-billed Murres! The island Reinøya is home to one of Europe’s largest Herring Gull colonies of about 50,000 pairs! And Black-legged Kittiwake colonies of many thousand pairs breed on both islands, making an infernal racket. The most dedicated birdwatchers should be aware that, in September, there are good chances of finding European Storm Petrels in Hornøya. They will not breed until autumn, after the seabirds have left. However, to increase your chances of seeing these petrels, be prepared to go out at night.


Map over Vardø, Hornøya, and Reinøya

1Skagen and Skagodden
2Bird hide in Hornøya
3Bird hide by Sandvika
4Bird hide in Hasselneset
6Sandvika / Vardø havn (harbour)
7Sundammen / Vardøhus festning (fortress)
9Bird hide in Steglneset

Birdwatching in Hornøya
Hornøya is easy to access. Daily in the period from March through August, the boat departes from Vardø harbour and will take about 10 minutes. More information on Port of Vardø. And since you already are in Vardø Harbour, why not use the opportunity to look for the Glaucous Gull? And in the summer, being even more fortunate, you might get to see King Eider and Steller’s Eider. In the winter, large bird flocks are often found by the harbour. Remember to follow the trail when you get to Hornøya. This is important so you do not disturb the birds in the breeding season. No need to worry about not getting good pictures, as you will get very close to them by following the trail.

Bird Areas by Vardø
In the area around Vardø, there are many interesting places for birdwatchers. One example is Sunddammen, a good area for waders. Skagodden is a great point for seabird migration. And on your way there, you might want to look for Red-throated Pipit, Horned Lark, Snow Bunting, and other species that thrive in this type of terrain.

Helpful Information

Biotope:Hornøya and Reinøya are bird cliffs.
Harbour environment, wetlands, and grasslands around Vardø.
Best time to visit:The area is exciting all year round.
But if you want to experience the real birdlife in Hornøya,
the best time is from April through July.
Bird towers:Four Bird hides:
Point 1—Hornøya
Point 3–Sandvika
Point 4–Hasselneset
Point 9–Steglneset
Terrain:The trail in Hornøya is somewhat hilly.
The rest of the area around Vardø can be reached by car.
Shoes:Water proof hiking or mountain boots.
Clothes:Wind proof casual clothes or hiking wear.
Telescope:Not necessary, but recommended.




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 Hornøya and Reinøya Nature Reserve is Norway’s easternmost reserve?

… that Europe’s easiest accessible colony of Thick-billed Murres is located in Hornøya?

… that in 2016, NRK (Norway’s National TV channel) was awarded for the most genuine and innovative television program in Europe? The program was “The Bird Cliff” from Hornøya.

Bird Species Seen in the Area

Some of the Birds in Hornøya and Vardø

Key Map
Helpful Links
(also in english)