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Collecting Bird Eggs at Flatey Island, Breidafjord, Iceland

Discussion in 'Birds' started by bobhoge, Jun 29, 2007.

  1. In another of the many Iceland posts we said they collected bird eggs. We were able to see them doing it at Flatey Island, in Breidafjord.

    They were collecting Kittiwake eggs on a little island just offshore. This photo was taken earlier when some of our group were preparing to Kayak by the island:
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    On our return to the ship after walking on Flatey Island, we took a zodiac ride past the little island to see the Kittiwake nests:
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    Three people were collecting the eggs. One was working along the shoreline and reaching into the nests she could. The other two were at the top of the cliff, using something like an oversized golf ball retreiver and passing it to the third person who got the eggs out of the cup.
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    Our experts said that the Kittiwake lay one egg. If it is lost, they will lay a second one, and if that is lost, a third. Thus they can take two eggs from the nest and not really hurt the population.

    Bop & Nan
  2. Bob,

    What are they doing with the eggs? Omlettes?
    My interpretation of their ability to lay one or two more eggs if the first should fail, would be that it increases their odds of adding at least one bird to their population, maybe even two, in a good year. Survival rates of most wild young, probably of any species, is certainly less than 50%, probably closer to 30%. Putting those kind of odds on a single egg, instead of 3, in fact may be detrimental.
    Obviously, you're merely expressing what has been explained to you, so I'm in no way criticizing you personally. I just find it extremely interesting how different cultures perceive things and I didn't know this was done, and I appreciate you sharing it.
  3. Hi Thomas,

    Yes, I agree with you, I'm just reporting what they say. Like you, I think that taking more than one from a nest must be really stressful on the population if done in significant numbers. Fortunately the Kittiwake are fairly long-lived and reproduce every year. Also there are lots more birds than collectors.
    Like I said in another post, until recent times, Iceland was a tough place to eke out a living and you had to use what nature gave you to survive. Not much in the way of crops can be raised, Sheep can feed on the grass, but the birds, bird eggs, and fish are most of what they could find.
    We did not go in any grocery stores in the cities to see if they are selling the eggs commercially. One note I have was that at one time they collected 40,000 eggs per year, but there are 100's of thousands (or maybe millions) of birds here so it might not be very significant.

    Bob & Nan
  4. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Amazing story and super pics
    Thanks Bob
  5. I can't help but wonder what a Kittiwake omlette must taste like.....not sure I'd want to try it though! lol
  6. Funnily enough, I have just been reading about a series of experiments done by H B Cott over 50 years ago. His tasting panels tried eggs from 212 species of bird - scrambled, unseasoned.
    Chickens came top, with lesser black-backed gull, kittiwake and herring gull close behind. Gannet, cormorant and shag were at the bottom. So now you know :wink:

    You have to remember the huge numbers of seabirds in the North Atlantic and the very small numbers of humans. We may not approve of this practice, but there are many threats to wildlife which are far more dangerous than this.

  7. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Bob :

    I very clearly recall being in Iceland some twenty-five years back, and watching them catch puffins that they flushed out from the rookeries in the cliffs. The catcher would swing back and forth on a rope along the cliff, snatching the birds as they were scared, and stuffing them into a sack with a pull closure to keep them from getting out. The birds were then eaten.

    Even then, Iceland was a horrendously expensive place to visit because of the requirement to import so many items of food and daily life, and I easily understood the simple need to have local resources to use.

    A beautiful country with lovely people, and I'd like to get back some day soon.

    John P.
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