Outer Hebrides Wildife
Outer Hebrides Wildife

Animals of the Outer Hebrides


The fauna of the Outer Hebrides has been shaped by geographical, geological and climatic elements, and influenced by past and present human activity. In common with most island groups our faunal diversity is much smaller than that of the equivalent latitude on the mainland; however, there are some species which are typical of more northern regions, and some which are sufficiently characteristic to be classified as subspecies, for example the St. Kilda Wren Troglodytes troglodytes hirtensis.



The land mammals may vary in size from the tiny pygmy shrew to the magnificent red deer stag, but the species diversity is small. There are otters but not pine martins, badgers, wild cats or foxes; some rodents: rats, voles and field mice, but no squirrels; and whilst there are plenty of rabbits and a few mountain hares, there are no brown hares. In Lewis there a few pipestrelle bats but there are no other Chiroptera in the islands. In comparison the marine vertebrate fauna is much richer, with both grey and common seals breeding on the smaller islands and a variety of cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises and whales) using the coastal waters.


The bird populations, resident and migratory, are important and well recorded. The breeding populations of seabirds, waders and birds of prey are of international importance and the islands remain an important refuge for breeding corncrakes. In the winter large numbers of wintering wildfowl and waders can be found on the lowland lochs, coastal grassland and beaches. In the spring and autumn the islands are a stop-over for birds migrating to their northern breeding grounds or returning to their more southerly wintering areas.

Reptiles & Amphibians

The only native reptile is the slow worm; although marine turtles have been observed in the offshore waters in the late summer feeding on jellyfish. Frogs are now common throughout the islands but toads seem to be restricted to Lewis and Harris and there is also a very small population of palmate newts on one island. These amphibians are all recent introductions to the islands fauna.


There are only six species of native freshwater fish found in the islands' lochs, ranging from the Atlantic salmon to the three-spined stickleback. In comparison there are about 250 marine species recorded in Scotland's territorial waters, but information on the species found in around the Hebrides in limited.

The invertebrates, with the exception of certain groups of insects, are seriously under-recorded and information on their biodiversity and distribution is very limited. In recent years considerable effort has been directed at recording some of the main insect groups, particularly the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, ants, sawflies and ichneumons), however there is still plenty to discover about these and some of the other insect taxa.
Our knowledge of the other major terrestrial and freshwater invertebrate groups is still very limited. In comparison the marine invertebrates have been more comprehensively surveyed.

This website covers all the vertebrate taxonomic orders (fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals) apart from birds. Work has started on the invertebrates and so far it provides information on three taxonomic orders of insects: Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, ants, sawflies and ichneumons), Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), Orthoptera (grasshoppers) and the Syrphidae (hoverflies)

Organised by a small group of enthusiastic birders in the islands, the aim is to promote the recording of birds in the county and bring together people with a shared interest in birds and birding in the Outer Hebrides.

Describes and illustrates the 14 species of butterfly and over 390 species of moth recorded in the islands.