Vigur Island, half an hour’s boat ride from Ísafjörður in the Westfjords, is famous for its enormous colony of birdlife. Species here include puffins, eider ducks, arctic terns, black guillemots and razorbills.
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Despite Vigur being the second largest island in Ísafjörður bay, there are only five permanent residents - a farmer and his family - who live in a mid-19th-century house. Overall, this family has farmed the lands on Vigur over six generations.
Their relationship to the nesting ducks is an interesting one; for years, the farmers have collected the down from their nests, bound by the unwritten rule that they themselves will act as the species’ protector against more predatory birds. The family makes part of their income from collecting and selling this down, largely by filling cushions and duvets. Over two hundred years ago, a farmer built what is colloquially known as ‘The Eider Duck Hotel’, a small stone wall with built in cubby holes, the perfect refuge for a nesting mother duck. The hotel still operates today.
Guided tours around the island are available, though the duration of these differs depending on whether the birds are currently in a nesting season. Visitors must make take extra care and attention to not step on the thousands of eggs laying amongst the grass, and also be aware of the Arctic Tern’s fiery and protective nature. These birds are known the island over for their dive-bombing, aggressive chatter and physical bravery. Waving a stick or an Icelandic national flag is a sure way to deter any potential aggression.