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10 facts you didn’t know about Scottish wildlife

Have you ever witnessed something in the wild that has made your heart skip a beat? In Scotland, a rare sighting is always a possibility with a huge variety of spellbinding, unusual and curious wildlife calling Scotland home. From soaring golden eagles and leaping dolphins to scurrying red squirrels, perching puffins and many others, be patient and have your camera at the ready at all times.

How much do you know about the creatures that live in Scotland? Here are a few fascinating facts about some of our amazing resident species and their habitats:

A Red Deer Stag at the Highland Wildlife Park, Kincraig, by Kingussie, Highlands of Scotland. Picture Credit : Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland

Red Deer Stag at the Highland Wildlife Park, Kincraig, by Kingussie, Highlands of Scotland. Picture Credit : Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland

Red deer ‘ruts’ take place each autumn between September and November, as stags clash antlers and battle for dominance and female mates. This is considered to be one of the animal kingdom’s most spectacular sights, and ruts take place in forests all over Scotland, from the Galloway Forest Park to the Cairngorms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottlenose Dolphin © Neil McIntyre

Bottlenose Dolphin © Neil McIntyre

The Moray Firth is a fabulous place to spot marine life. Venture to Chanonry Point, where you’ll be in prime position to see dolphins swimming out in the distance, during the warmer months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) © Neil McIntyre

The red squirrel is the UK’s only native squirrel species, and just approximately 120,000 remain in Scotland today. These crafty and resourceful little creatures express themselves using their tufty ears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otter (Lutra lutra)

Otter (Lutra lutra) © Neil McIntyre

Scottish otters are mostly found on the west and north coast, Outer Hebrides and Shetland, in a range of watery habitats. In fact, 12% of the UK population lives in Shetland, but increasingly otters are found in all of Scotland’s river systems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Osprey hunting

Osprey hunting © Neil McIntyre

Ospreys make their way back to Scotland from Africa during late March and April before leaving again in August and September. Loch Garten Osprey Centre, near Aviemore, is a great spot for sightings, as well as via the tree-top camera video feed at Kailzie Gardens near Peebles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puffin on the Isle of May

Puffin on the Isle of May

Tiny but tenacious, puffins are nicknamed the ‘clowns of the sea’ thanks to their brightly coloured beaks. They usually arrive in Scotland for breeding season between April – July.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common seal by Oban

Common seal by Oban

There are two types of seal in Scotland, the harbour (common) seal and the grey seal. The harbour seal is the smaller of the two species and can plunge to up to 200 metres underwater and stay submerged for up to 15 minutes.
Common seal by Oban

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bass Rock seen from the Seafari Explorer - Seabird Cruise

The Bass Rock seen from the Seafari Explorer – Seabird Cruise

During peak season in spring and summer, the Bass Rock welcomes over 150,000 seabirds including gannets, shags, fulmers and guillemots, earning it the nickname, ‘Seabird City’. Learn more about the birds at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick.

 

 

 

 

 

Capercaillie

Capercaillie © Neil McIntyre

Listen out for the distinctive sound of the capercaillie’s call as you explore Scotland’s forests and woodlands – it resembles the sound of a clip-clopping horse. This is how the bird earned its Gaelic name, capull coille, meaning ‘horse of the woods’.

 

 

 

 

 

Scottish Wildcat

Scottish Wildcat © Neil McIntyre

In remote corners of the Highlands, you might catch a glimpse of the rare Scottish wildcat. These secretive hunters look like supersized and slightly grumpy tabby cats, with much bushier tails and tufts on their ears. There may be as few as 100 left in the wild.

 

 

 

 

 

For more information about a few of Scotland’s marvellous creatures, check out VisitScotland’s Scottish Wildlife Series which features more fascinating facts, tips on places to spot wildlife and incredible footage of six species in action.