List of birds of Greenland
This is a list of the bird species recorded in Greenland. The avifauna of Greenland include a total of 240 species, of which 170 are rare or accidental.
This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) follow the conventions of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 6th edition. The family accounts at the beginning of each heading reflect this taxonomy, as do the species counts found in each family account. Accidental species are included in the total species counts for Greenland.
The following tags have been used to highlight certain relevant categories. Not all species fall into one of these categories. Those that do not are commonly occurring, native species.
- (A) Accidental - a species that rarely or accidentally occurs in Greenland
Loons, known as divers in Europe, are a group of aquatic birds found in many parts of North America and northern Europe. They are the size of a large duck or small goose, which they somewhat resemble when swimming, but to which they are completely unrelated.
- Red-throated loon, Gavia stellata
- Pacific loon, Gavia pacifica (A)
- Common loon, Gavia immer
- Yellow-billed loon, Gavia adamsii (A)
Grebes are small to medium-large freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land.
- Red-necked grebe, Podiceps grisegena (A)
- Horned grebe, Podiceps auritus (A)
- Eared grebe, Podiceps nigricollis (A)
The albatrosses are among the largest of flying birds, and the great albatrosses from the genus Diomedea have the largest wingspans of any extant birds.
- Black-browed albatross, Thalassarche melanophris (A)
- Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross, Thalassarche chlororhynchos (A)
Shearwaters and petrels
The procellariids are the main group of medium-sized "true petrels", characterised by united nostrils with medium septum and a long outer functional primary.
- Northern fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis
- Great shearwater, Puffinus gravis
- Sooty shearwater, Puffinus griseus (A)
- Manx shearwater, Puffinus puffinus (A)
The storm-petrels are relatives of the petrels and are the smallest seabirds. They feed on planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. The flight is fluttering and sometimes bat-like.
- Leach's storm-petrel, Oceanodroma leucorhoa (A)
Boobies and gannets
- Northern gannet, Morus bassanus (A)
Phalacrocoracidae is a family of medium to large coastal, fish-eating seabirds that includes cormorants and shags. Plumage colouration varies, with the majority having mainly dark plumage, some species being black-and-white and a few being colourful.
- Great cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo
Bitterns, herons and egrets
The Ardeidae family contains the bitterns, herons and egrets. Herons and egrets are medium to large wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter necked and more wary. Unlike other long-necked birds such as storks, ibises and spoonbills, members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted.
- Grey heron, Ardea cinerea (A)
- Great blue heron, Ardea herodias (A)
- Little blue heron, Egretta caerulea (A)
- Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis (A)
- Green heron, Butorides virescens (A)
- Black-crowned night-heron, Nycticorax nycticorax (A)
- American bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus (A)
Ibises and spoonbills
Threskiornithidae is a family of large terrestrial and wading birds which includes the ibises and spoonbills. They have long, broad wings with 11 primary and about 20 secondary feathers. They are strong fliers and despite their size and weight, very capable soarers.
Ducks, geese and swans
Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These birds are adapted to an aquatic existence with webbed feet, flattened bills, and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to an oily coating.
- Whooper swan, Cygnus cygnus (A)
- Tundra swan, Cygnus columbianus (A)
- Pink-footed goose, Anser brachyrhynchus
- Greater white-fronted goose, Anser albifrons
- Greylag goose, Anser anser (A)
- Snow goose, Chen caerulescens
- Emperor goose, Chen canagica (A)
- Brant, Branta bernicla
- Barnacle goose, Branta leucopsis
- Cackling goose, Branta hutchinsii
- Canada goose, Branta canadensis
- Ruddy shelduck, Tadorna ferruginea (A)
- Eurasian wigeon, Anas penelope (A)
- American wigeon, Anas americana (A)
- Gadwall, Anas strepera (A)
- Eurasian teal, Anas crecca crecca
- Green-winged teal, Anas crecca carolinensis (A)
- Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
- Northern pintail, Anas acuta
- Blue-winged teal, Anas discors (A)
- Northern shoveler, Anas clypeata (A)
- Redhead, Aythya americana (A)
- Ring-necked duck, Aythya collaris (A)
- Tufted duck, Aythya fuligula (A)
- Greater scaup, Aythya marila (A)
- Lesser scaup, Aythya affinis (A)
- Common eider, Somateria mollissima
- King eider, Somateria spectabilis
- Steller's eider, Polysticta stelleri (A)
- Harlequin duck, Histrionicus histrionicus
- Long-tailed duck, Clangula hyemalis
- Common scoter, Melanitta nigra (A)
- Black scoter, Melanitta americana (A)
- Surf scoter, Melanitta perspicillata (A)
- White-winged scoter, Melanitta fusca (A)
- Common goldeneye, Bucephala clangula (A)
- Barrow's goldeneye, Bucephala islandica
- Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola (A)
- Red-breasted merganser, Mergus serrator
- Common merganser, Mergus merganser (A)
The Pandionidae family contains only one species, the osprey. The osprey is a medium-large raptor which is a specialist fish-eater with a worldwide distribution.
- Osprey, Pandion haliaetus (A)
Hawks, kites and eagles
Accipitridae is a family of birds of prey and includes hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures. These birds have powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons and keen eyesight.
- White-tailed eagle, Haliaeetus albicilla
Caracaras and falcons
Falconidae is a family of diurnal birds of prey. They differ from hawks, eagles and kites in that they kill with their beaks instead of their talons.
- Eurasian kestrel, Falco tinnunculus (A)
- Merlin, Falco columbarius (A)
- Gyrfalcon, Falco rusticolus
- Peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus
Grouse are game birds, similar to quails and partridges.
- Rock ptarmigan, Lagopus muta
Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or "dances".
Rails, crakes, gallinules and coots
Rallidae is a large family of small to medium-sized birds which includes the rails, crakes, coots and gallinules. Typically they inhabit dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, making them difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs and long toes which are well adapted to soft uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and to be weak fliers.
- Virginia rail, Rallus limicola (A)
- Water rail, Rallus aquaticus (A)
- Corn crake, Crex crex (A)
- Spotted crake, Porzana porzana (A)
- Sora, Porzana carolina (A)
- Purple gallinule, Porphyrio martinica (A)
- Common moorhen, Gallinula chloropus (A)
- Common gallinule, Gallinula galeata (A)
- Eurasian coot, Fulica atra (A)
- American coot, Fulica americana (A)
- Eurasian oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus (A)
Avocets and stilts
Recurvirostridae is a family of large wading birds, which includes the avocets and stilts. The avocets have long legs and long up-curved bills. The stilts have extremely long legs and long, thin, straight bills.
- American avocet, Recurvirostra americana (A)
Plovers and lapwings
The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels and lapwings. They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings. They are found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water.
- Northern lapwing, Vanellus vanellus (A)
- Pacific golden-plover, Pluvialis fulva (A)
- American golden-plover, Pluvialis dominica (A)
- European golden-plover, Pluvialis apricaria
- Black-bellied plover, Pluvialis squatarola
- Common ringed plover, Charadrius hiaticula
- Semipalmated plover, Charadrius semipalmatus (A)
- Killdeer, Charadrius vociferus (A)
- Oriental plover, Charadrius veredus (A)
Sandpipers and allies
Scolopacidae is a large diverse family of small to medium-sized shorebirds including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers and phalaropes. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Variation in length of legs and bills enables multiple species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food.
- Eurasian woodcock, Scolopax rusticola (A)
- Common snipe, Gallinago gallinago (A)
- Wilson's snipe, Gallinago delicata (A)
- Long-billed dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus (A)
- Black-tailed godwit, Limosa limosa (A)
- Eskimo curlew, Numenius borealis (A)
- Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus
- Eurasian curlew, Numenius arquata (A)
- Upland sandpiper, Bartramia longicauda (A)
- Common redshank, Tringa totanus (A)
- Common greenshank, Tringa nebularia (A)
- Greater yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca (A)
- Lesser yellowlegs, Tringa flavipes (A)
- Solitary sandpiper, Tringa solitaria (A)
- Wood sandpiper, Tringa glareola (A)
- Spotted sandpiper, Actitis macularia (A)
- Ruddy turnstone, Arenaria interpres
- Red knot, Calidris canutus
- Sanderling, Calidris alba
- Semipalmated sandpiper, Calidris pusilla (A)
- Temminck's stint, Calidris temminckii (A)
- Least sandpiper, Calidris minutilla (A)
- White-rumped sandpiper, Calidris fuscicollis (A)
- Baird's sandpiper, Calidris bairdii
- Pectoral sandpiper, Calidris melanotos (A)
- Curlew sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea (A)
- Dunlin, Calidris alpina
- Purple sandpiper, Calidris maritima
- Buff-breasted sandpiper, Tryngites subruficollis (A)
- Ruff, Philomachus pugnax (A)
- Red-necked phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus
- Red phalarope, Phalaropus fulicarius
Skuas and jaegers
The family Stercorariidae are, in general, medium to large birds, typically with grey or brown plumage, often with white markings on the wings. They nest on the ground in temperate and arctic regions and are long-distance migrants.
- South polar skua, Stercorarius maccormicki (A)
- Great skua, Stercorarius skua
- Pomarine jaeger, Stercorarius pomarinus
- Parasitic jaeger, Stercorarius parasiticus
- Long-tailed jaeger, Stercorarius longicaudus
Gulls and terns
Laridae is a family of medium to large seabirds and includes gulls, kittiwakes, terns and skimmers. They are typically grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have longish bills and webbed feet. Terns are a group of generally medium to large seabirds typically with grey or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. Most terns hunt fish by diving but some pick insects off the surface of fresh water. Terns are generally long-lived birds, with several species known to live in excess of 30 years
- Mew gull, Larus canus (A)
- Ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis (A)
- Great black-backed gull, Larus marinus
- Glaucous gull, Larus hyperboreus
- Iceland gull, Larus glaucoides
- Thayer's gull, Larus thayeri
- Herring gull, Larus argentatus (A)
- American herring gull, Larus argentatus smithsonianus (A)
- Lesser black-backed gull, Larus fuscus (A)
- Black-headed gull, Chroicocephalus ridibundus
- Bonaparte's gull, Chroicocephalus philadelphia (A)
- Laughing gull, Leucophaeus atricilla (A)
- Franklin's gull, Leucophaeus pipixcan (A)
- Little gull, Hydrocoloeus minutus (A)
- Ivory gull, Pagophila eburnea
- Ross's gull, Rhodostethia rosea
- Sabine's gull, Xema sabini
- Black-legged kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla
- Arctic tern, Sterna paradisaea
Auks, murres and puffins
Alcids are superficially similar to penguins due to their black-and-white colours, their upright posture and some of their habits, however they are not related to the penguins and differ in being able to fly. Auks live on the open sea, only deliberately coming ashore to nest.
- Dovekie, Alle alle
- Common murre, Uria aalge
- Thick-billed murre, Uria lomvia
- Razorbill, Alca torda
- Great auk, Pinguinus impennis (Extinct)
- Black guillemot, Cepphus grylle
- Crested auklet, Aethia cristatella (A)
- Atlantic puffin, Fratercula arctica
Pigeons and doves
- Mourning dove, Zenaida macroura (A)
Cuckoos and anis
- Common cuckoo, Cuculus canorus (A)
- Black-billed cuckoo, Coccyzus erythropthalmus (A)
- Yellow-billed cuckoo, Coccyzus americanus (A)
The typical owls are small to large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disk.
Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds that usually nest on the ground. They have long wings, short legs and very short bills. Most have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed wings. Their soft plumage is camouflaged to resemble bark or leaves.
- Common nighthawk, Chordeiles minor (A)
Swifts are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang.
- Chimney swift, Chaetura pelagica (A)
Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long, pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails.
- Belted kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon (A)
Woodpeckers and allies
Woodpeckers are small to medium-sized birds with chisel-like beaks, short legs, stiff tails and long tongues used for capturing insects. Some species have feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward, while several species have only three toes. Many woodpeckers have the habit of tapping noisily on tree trunks with their beaks.
- Yellow-bellied sapsucker, Sphyrapicus varius (A)
Tyrant flycatchers are passerine birds which occur throughout North and South America. They superficially resemble the Old World flycatchers, but are more robust and have stronger bills. They do not have the sophisticated vocal capabilities of the songbirds. Most, but not all, have plain colouring. As the name implies, most are insectivorous.
- Olive-sided flycatcher, Contopus cooperi (A)
- Yellow-bellied flycatcher, Empidonax flaviventris (A)
- Eastern kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus (A)
Larks are small terrestrial birds with often extravagant songs and display flights. Most larks are fairly dull in appearance. Their food is insects and seeds.
- Horned lark, Eremophila alpestris (A)
Swallows and martins
The Hirundinidae family is adapted to aerial feeding. They have a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings and a short bill with a wide gape. The feet are adapted to perching rather than walking, and the front toes are partially joined at the base.
- Tree swallow, Tachycineta bicolor (A)
- Cliff swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota (A)
- Barn swallow, Hirundo rustica (A)
- Common house-martin, Delichon urbica (A)
Wagtails and pipits
Motacillidae is a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits. They are slender, ground feeding insectivores of open country.
The kinglets or crests are a small group of birds often included in the Old World warblers, but frequently given family status because they also resemble the titmice.
- Ruby-crowned kinglet, Regulus calendula (A)
The waxwings are a group of birds with soft silky plumage and unique red tips to some of the wing feathers. In the Bohemian and cedar waxwings, these tips look like sealing wax and give the group its name. These are arboreal birds of northern forests. They live on insects in summer and berries in winter.
- Bohemian waxwing, Bombycilla garrulus (A)
The wrens are mainly small and inconspicuous except for their loud songs. These birds have short wings and thin down-turned bills. Several species often hold their tails upright. All are insectivorous.
- Marsh wren, Cistothorus palustris (A)
Thrushes and allies
The thrushes are a group of passerine birds that occur mainly in the Old World. They are plump, soft plumaged, small to medium-sized insectivores or sometimes omnivores, often feeding on the ground. Many have attractive songs.
- Scaly thrush, Zoothera dauma (A)
- Grey-cheeked thrush, Catharus minimus (A)
- Hermit thrush, Catharus guttatus (A)
- Eurasian blackbird, Turdus merula (A)
- Fieldfare, Turdus pilaris
- Redwing, Turdus iliacus
- Song thrush, Turdus philomelos (A)
- American robin, Turdus migratorius (A)
Old World warblers
The family Sylviidae is a group of small insectivorous passerine birds. They mainly occur as breeding species, as the common name implies, in Europe, Asia and, to a lesser extent, Africa. Most are of generally undistinguished appearance, but many have distinctive songs.
- Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla (A)
- Willow warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus (A)
Old World flycatchers
Old World flycatchers are a large group of small passerine birds native to the Old World. They are mainly small arboreal insectivores. The appearance of these birds is highly varied, but they mostly have weak songs and harsh calls.
- Northern wheatear, Oenanthe oenanthe
Crows, jays, ravens and magpies
The Corvidae family includes crows, ravens, jays, choughs, magpies, treepies, nutcrackers and ground jays. Corvids are above average in size among the Passeriformes, and some of the larger species show high levels of intelligence.
- Eurasian jackdaw, Corvus monedula (A)
- Rook, Corvus frugilegus (A)
- Common raven, Corvus corax
- Hooded crow, Corvus cornix (A)
Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds. Their flight is strong and direct and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country. They eat insects and fruit. Plumage is typically dark with a metallic sheen.
- European starling, Sturnus vulgaris (A)
Longspurs and snow buntings
New World warblers
The New World warblers are a group of small, often colourful, passerine birds restricted to the New World. Most are arboreal, but some are terrestrial. Most members of this family are insectivores.
- Golden-winged warbler, Vermivora chrysoptera (A)
- Tennessee warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina (A)
- Orange-crowned warbler, Oreothlypis celata (A)
- Nashville warbler, Oreothlypis ruficapilla (A)
- Northern parula, Setophaga americana (A)
- Yellow warbler, Setophaga petechia (A)
- Chestnut-sided warbler, Setophaga pensylvanica (A)
- Magnolia warbler, Setophaga magnolia (A)
- Black-throated blue warbler, Setophaga caerulescens (A)
- Yellow-rumped warbler, Setophaga coronata (A)
- Black-throated green warbler, Setophaga virens (A)
- Blackburnian warbler, Setophaga fusca (A)
- Pine warbler, Setophaga pinus (A)
- Bay-breasted warbler, Setophaga castanea (A)
- Blackpoll warbler, Setophaga striata (A)
- American redstart, Setophaga ruticilla (A)
- Ovenbird, Seiurus aurocapilla (A)
- Northern waterthrush, Parkesia noveboracensis (A)
- Louisiana waterthrush, Parkesia motacilla (A)
- Mourning warbler, Geothlypis philadelphia (A)
- Common yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas (A)
- Wilson's warbler, Cardellina pusilla (A)
- Canada warbler, Cardellina canadensis (A)
- Yellow-breasted chat, Icteria virens (A)
Buntings, sparrows, seedeaters and allies
The emberizids are a large family of passerine birds. They are seed-eating birds with distinctively shaped bills. In Europe, most species are called buntings. In North America, most of the species in this family are known as sparrows, but these birds are not closely related to the Old World sparrows which are in the family Passeridae. Many emberizid species have distinctive head patterns.
- Fox sparrow, Passerella iliaca (A)
- Lincoln's sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii (A)
- White-crowned sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys (A)
- Dark-eyed junco, Junco hyemalis (A)
Saltators, cardinals and allies
The cardinals are a family of robust, seed-eating birds, with strong bills. They are typically associated with open woodland. The sexes usually have distinct plumages.
- Rose-breasted grosbeak, Pheucticus ludovicianus (A)
Troupials and allies
The icterids are a group of small to medium-sized, often colourful, passerine birds restricted to the New World and include the grackles, New World blackbirds and New World orioles. Most species have black as the predominant plumage colour, often enlivened by yellow, orange or red.
- Bobolink, Dolichonyx oryzivorus (A)
- Yellow-headed blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus (A)
- Rusty blackbird, Euphagus carolinus (A)
- Baltimore oriole, Icterus galbula (A)
Siskins, crossbills and allies
Finches are seed-eating passerine birds, that are small to moderately large and have a strong beak, usually conical and in some species very large. All have twelve tail feathers and nine primaries. These birds have a bouncing flight with alternating bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings, and most sing well.
- Common chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs (A)
- Pine grosbeak, Pinicola enucleator (A)
- Red crossbill, Loxia curvirostra (A)
- White-winged crossbill, Loxia leucoptera (A)
- Common redpoll, Acanthis flammea
- Lesser redpoll, Acanthis cabaret (A)
- Hoary redpoll, Acanthis hornemanni
- Lepage, Denis. "Checklist of birds of Greenland". Bird Checklists of the World. Avibase. Retrieved 26 April 2007.
- Clements, James F. (2000). Birds of the World: a Checklist. Cornell University Press. p. 880. ISBN 0-934797-16-1.
- Birds of Greenland Birdlist, multi-lingual website by country with standardised codes for abundance and seasonal presence.