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Scotland’s Wildlife – Big 5

Posted on Oct 24, 2013 by Jonathan Willet

Discover our top 5 native Scottish animals that live in the most beautiful untouched areas of the Scottish Wilderness.

The sights and sounds of nature inhabiting the beautiful Scottish landscapes is an experience that should not be missed. Check out our Top Five Scottish Animals list to see just why Scotland is such a stunningly unique place to visit.

Scottish wild animals to spot in the outdoors.

From airborne wildlife to sealife – Scotland has an amazing range of diverse animal life scattered throughout it’s incredible scenic landscapes.  The following is just a taste of the nature which Scotland has to offer.

Find More About Scotland’s Diverse Wildlife

  1. Learn about the mighty Osprey
  2. How to Spot a Golden Eagle – 5 Tips
  3. How to Spot Killer Whales in Scotland

Golden Eagle

Scotland's Wildlife - Big 5

Our second largest bird of prey after the Sea Eagle. A majestic bird with a wingspan of nearly 2 metres. They are not always easy to see but if you are in the Highlands and you see a bird with long “fingers” at the end of its wings and doesn’t flap much then you could be seeing a “Goldie”.

If you are not sure about the difference between a Buzzard and an Eagle then download this great ID guide produced by the RSPB. Even if you don’t see an eagle you will see its name on a map, Creag na Iolaire (creg nuh you-lurr-uh) cliff of the eagle.


Red Squirrel

Scotland's Wildlife - Big 5

This cute and beguiling rodent is another one difficult to see in a forest but if you can find a café with a peanut feeder in the right place then you can get some good views. Reds are making a comeback in Scotland due to targeted Grey Squirrel control. So now you can see them in Dundee and Aberdeen.

If you are really lucky in Spring you can see the males and females indulging in mating chases, they are oblivious to spectators for obvious reasons! There is a Gaidhlig saying that translates, “as nimble as squirrels in Spring”.


The Common or Harbour Seal

Scotland's Wildife - Big 5

This species is undergoing a name change as it is less common than the Grey Seal and the rest of the English speaking world calls it the Harbour Seal. It can be found all round the Scottish coast and it breeds on sheltered sandbanks exposed at low tide. The pups can swim a few hours after birth so they don’t need dry land to breed on like the Grey Seal.

The Harbour Seal is upto 1.8 metres long and has a dog-like face with a muzzle and brow. The Grey Seal (not always grey) has a lumpy, Roman-nose and is a bit longer and much heavier. The Gaidhlig for seal is Ron, however Rona north of Rassay is thought to mean rough not seal island.


Red Deer

Scotland's Wildlife - Big 5

Our biggest land mammal is an icon. Edwin Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen is a picture that captures this animal perfectly. At this time of year if you are out on the hills you can hear the Stags bellowing as the rut is in full swing. This roaring is unlike anything else you will hear on the hills.

Autumnwatch on BBC2 has captured this sometimes violent soap opera and beamed it to millions. Red Deer are found north and south of the Central Belt of Scotland and can be found in large numbers in the winter after the rut has finished. Ben Damph in Torridon is the “Mountain of the Stag”.



Scotland's Wildlife - Big 5

  • Our final contender is probably the trickiest to see in the wild. You have to be patient to see one but good views of Otters are not to be forgotten.
  • They are marvellous swimmers and not too bad on land in a lolloping kind of way.
  • Often their spraint (droppings) are the only signs of them, these are usually deposited on prominent rocks and in rivers often under bridges (no-one knows why).
  • Otters are most common at the coast as this is where there is the most food for them.
  • We only have one species of Otter but it can be found in fresh or salt water.
  • Otters hunting in the sea need access to fresh water to wash the salt out their fur, otherwise it would lose its waterproofness.




Want to see Scotland’s diverse wildlife in person?

Luckily our many varied tours provide the opportunity to discover Scotland’s rich nature.  Our Wilderness Walking trips will allow you to encounter a variety of rich animal life.  We even offer adventure wildlife holidays and on a sea kayaking journey you can be up close to the friendly sealife which inhabits the Scottish waters.  Below are just some of the adventures we offer where you are likely to encounter beautiful animal life on a holiday which will long stay in the memory.

About the author

Jonathan Willet

Jonathan has a wealth of experience in biodiversity, history and landscape. With degrees in zoology and ecology and 20+ years as a wildlife guide, his regular blogs are always packed full of informational gems.

Read more articles by Jonathan

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