WILDLIFE ON SKELLIG MICHAEL
BIRDS ON AND AROUND THE SKELLIG ISLANDS


There is an incredible wealth of birdlife on and around Skellig Michael and little Skelligs. The puffins arrive on the island in late spring and gannets start to arrive on the small Skelligs in March. By April, they have covered every available ledge on the island.

The Skellig Michael Boat Tour around the Skellig Islands (Skellig Michael and Little Skelligs Nature Reserve) has multiple departure times throughout the day. The boat tour lasts approximately 2 hours and 25 minutes and circles both islands getting right up close to Skellig Michael and the Little Skelligs to see both the wildlife and the historical sites.

Birds of Skellig Michael

Puffins

Gannets

Guillemots/Razorbills

Fulmar

Cormorant

Arctic Tern

Puffin on Skellig Michael
Skellig Michael Puffin with fish in its mouth

PUFFINS ON SKELLIG MICHAEL

The Puffin’s scientific name is Fratercula arctica. These birds are also called “sea parrots” or “clowns of the sea”. The puffin can be recognized by white underparts and a black back as well as black head with a flattened and bright bill and big pale cheeks. The puffin is known for its orange legs, beautiful red and black eye-markings, and playful character, which give the bird a comical appearance. Puffins are instantly recognizable and loved by people from all around the world.

How much time does the boat spend around the Skellig Islands?

The boat stays at Skellig Michael and Little Skelligs Nature Reserve for approximately 45 minutes getting right up close to islands before returning back to the marina in Portmagee.

How many trips per day are there for the Skellig Michael Eco Tour?

There are multiple departures per day for the Skellig Michael Eco Tour. For the 2022 season, the tour starts in the morning at 10:00am and finishes at 5:00pm.

What months of the year can I do the Skellig Michael Eco Tour?

The Skellig Michael Eco Tour normally runs from April to October.

Are children allowed on the Skellig Michael Eco Tour?
We allow children of all ages on the Skellig Michael Eco Tour.

How long is the boat trip to Skellig Michael?
The ferry crossing to Skellig Michael takes about 50 minutes.

Puffin in flight on Skellig Michael
The Skellig Region is home to thousands of puffins
Puffin in flight

Gannets on Little Skellig: One of world’s largest Gannet Colonies


You can recognize the gannet by its black and white color, yellow head, and long pointed wings and bills. This bird is considered to be the largest sea bird in Europe whose wing span reaches two meters. About 27,000 pairs of gannets inhabit the small Skelligs, making the islands the second largest colony of these birds in the whole world. Gannets are very strong and fast and they can reach the sea at very high speed to catch their prey.

Gannet in flight at the small Skelligs
Passengers looking at Skellig Michael Gannet Colony from the boat
Boat stopped at the little Skelligs Gannet Colony

GUILLEMOTS ON SKELLIG MICHAEL AND LITTLE SKELLIG


Guillemot is actually not a name for a particular bird, but rather a common name for several species of birds belonging to auk family. For British, the term results in two genera: uria (known in North America as “murres”) and cepphus (known in North America as “guillemots”). The origins of this generic name come from French, with the word being a form of the name William (Guillaume in French). Often, guillemots live in colonies consisting of thousands individual birds and breed on difficult to access areas of cliffs and islands. Most of the birds go out to the sea in winter. Guillemots can swim under water using their wings and they feed by diving for fish from the surface.  

Razorbill

Adult razorbills have black upper-parts and white belly and breast. Their bills are thick with a blunt end. The razorbill has a pointed tail, which is longer than murre’s. Overall, the birds are rather large, reaching 38-43 cm (15-17 in) in length, and 60-69 cm (23-27 in) in wingspan.  

Black Guillemot

The bird has a unique appearance because of its black body with white linings under the wings, which show during flight. In the summer, you can easily identify the bird by its black and white color and bright red legs and feet. During the winter, its body noticeably changes color, with the upper-parts turning pale gray and the underparts – white. However, the bird’s wings maintain the same black color during the cold season with the white patch on the inside. The Black Guillemot has a thin and dark bill, and its legs and feet are red. The bird is about 32-38 cm (13-15 in) and it has a wingspan of 49-58 cm (19-23 in).

View of Skellig Michael from the little Skelligs
Taking photos of Skellig Michael
Skellig Michael

ARCTIC TERN ON SKELLIG MICHAEL

These birds have long lifespans, with many individual birds reaching thirty years of age. Arctic terns feed with small marine invertebrates and primarily fish. The birds are medium in size, reaching 33-36 cm (13-15 in) measuring from the tip of the bird’s beak to the tip of the tail. Arctic terns reach 86-127 g, (3.0-4.5 oz) in weight and their wingspan is 76-85 cm (30-34 in). Their beaks are dark red and they have webbed feet and short legs also red in color. Similarly to many terns, Arctic terns have a tail with a deep fork and also high aspect ratio wings. Adult tern has black nape and white cheeks. hour.

Arctic Tern on Skellig Michael
Cormorant on Skellig Michael

CORMORANT ON SKELLIG MICHAEL

There is a total of 40 or more species of shags and cormorants that represent the bird family of cormorants, scientifically known as Phalacrocoracidae. The scientists have proposed several classifications of this bird family. The representatives of cormorants differ in size, with pygmy cormorant (scientifically known as Phalacrocorax pygmaeus) reaching 45 cm (18 in) and 340 g (12 oz), and flightless cormorant (scientifically known as Phalacrocorax harrisi) reaching 100 cm (40 in) and 5 kg (11 lb). Several species have distinguishable appearance, as they can have areas of skin on the face colored bright orange, red, yellow, or blue, with the colors turning even brighter during the breeding season. Cormorants have long, thin, and sharply hooked bills and webbed feet.  

How much are the Skellig Michael Tours?

SKELLIG MICHAEL ECO TOUR
Adults: €45
Students / Seniors: €42
Children: €35 
Family: €150 (2 adults + 2 children)
Each additional child: €30
(Plus booking fee)

SKELLIG LANDING TOUR
120 plus booking fee per person

What options are there to see the wildlife on Skellig Michael and Little Skelligs?

The Skellig Michael Boat Tour around the Skellig Islands (Skellig Michael and Little Skelligs Nature Reserve) has multiple departure times throughout the day. The boat tour lasts approximately 2 hours and 25 minutes and circles both islands getting right up close to Skellig Michael and the Little Skelligs to see both the wildlife and the historical sites. 

This tour can get quite busy especially in the peak season so it is advisable to book well in advance.  The 2022 season runs from April to the beginning of October. The tour departs from the marina in Portmagee, Co. Kerry.

Where do the Skellig Michael Tours depart from?

All our tours depart from the marina in Portmagee, County Kerry. – Ask for BRENDAN CASEY. Arrive at least 15 minutes before the tour is due to depart.

How do I change or cancel my Skellig Tour booking?

Login to our customer area to update or cancel your booking. Enter the same email address you used when you made your booking.

It is advisable to stay as near as possible to Portmagee.

You should stay locally the night before the tour because the sea conditions vary a lot and we are often not sure if the tour will go ahead until right before it is due to depart.

MANX SHEARWATER ON SKELLIG MICHAEL

The Manx Shearwater’s scientific name is Puffinus puffinus. 
Manx Shearwater birds are pretty large, reaching 30-38 cm (12-15 in) in length and 76-89 cm (30-35 in) in wingspan. The birds fly low above the sea, dipipping from one side to the other on stiff wings with the tips almost touching the water. Manx shearwater’s flight is a peculiar sight to see. While the bird’s overall appearance might resemble a flying cross, the black and white colors of its underparts and undersides alternate in the viewer’s eye as the bird makes its way across the sea. Manx shearwaters eat cephalopods, surface offal, crustaceans, and small fish. The birds do not follow boats. Instead, they feed marine mammals that push their prey up the the surface.  
.

Looking at the birds and wildlife from the boat on the SKellig Michael Tour
Fulmar on Skellig Michael

FULMAR ON SKELLIG MICHAEL

The Fulmar’s scientific name is Fulmarus glacialis
Even though fulmar’s appearance resembles that of a gull, the two species are not in fact related. Fulmars from the north are gray in color with yellow bills. The birds are large, reaching 43-52 cm (17-20 in) in length and 102-112 cm (40-44 in) in wingspan. During the cold months, fulmars follow fishing boats from discarded fish scraps. They attack the intruders to their nests by spitting smelly oil at them. Fulmars are often repelled by other birds when they look for a possible nesting ledge.

HERRING GULL ON SKELLIG MICHAEL

The Herring Gull’s scientific name is Larus argentatus. 
Adult herring gulls are light gray in color, with white underparts and dark wing tips that have white “mirrors”. The birds have pink legs and webbed feet. Herring gulls’ bills are slightly hooked and with a red mark. Younger gulls are mottled brown. 
 
.

Skellig Michael Photo
Google Reviews for Skellig Tours

Recent Reviews on Google
“Would 100% recommend this on a checklist of “must do” items in Ireland.”
“Once in a lifetime experience you will never forget.”
Amazing boat tour by a very experienced and knowledgeable captain”