#512 and #513 in Downtown Reykjavik

Monday afternoon I drove Beth and her agent down to Reykjavik to visit a violinist at a lovely sculpture museum on the ocean. (Driving in Iceland is dead easy, by the way. Much simpler than in the U.S. Fewer people means less traffic.) I added Common Loon to the trip list at the museum, but didn’t find any life birds. However, a little later in the afternoon we visited Tjomin Pond in the city center, which is known for harboring many species that don’t winter anywhere else in the country. As usual in city parks in both Europe and America, some the biggest and most obvious waterfowl were Mute Swans. Or at least that’s what I thought at first. These days I hardly even look at swans in parks. However these swans were quite tame, as Mute Swans in parks usually are, and when one swam right up to us, I couldn’t help noticing the bright yellow bill:

Profile of a swan with a yellow and black bill

Wait a minute? Yellow bill? Mute Swans don’t have yellow bills. That’s a Whooper Swan! #512. (I’d seen a Whooper several years ago on the East Pond of Jamaica Bay, but as probable escapees Whoopers aren’t countable in New York. In Iceland they are.)

The next most obvious birds were the Graylag Geese. These are the ancestors of our own domestic geese. I’ve seen them before, including in Geneva Switzerland but none of them qualify as wild birds. These do, so they’re number 513. Graylag are wild in Iceland. Most migrate south to England in the winter but a few dozen have learned to wait out the winter near City Hall in Reykjavik, and feed on lawns throughout the city.

Total species count for the pond was 9:

  • Graylag Goose
  • Whooper Swan
  • Mallard
  • Tufted Duck
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Common Gull
  • Rock Pigeon
  • European Starling

Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, and Common Gull were also new birds for my Iceland list.

Update: on Saturday Beth and I found even more, wilder Whooper Swans in a small nature preserve on the Njarðvík shore so there really should be no question about this species.

One Response to “#512 and #513 in Downtown Reykjavik”

  1. John Cowan Says:

    Since Iceland wasn’t settled by humans until the year 874, how can anyone be sure that the Icelandic geese aren’t ferals?

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