Helgoland is the place in Germany with the most recorded bird species: 430 species recorded. The basis are the 'Big Five' Seabird Species at the breeding colony at the steep red cliff: Northern Gannet (~2000 breeding pairs), Common Guillemot (~4000 breeding pairs), Razorbill (~80breeding pairs), Kittiwake (~4000 breeding pairs) and Northern Fulmar (~50 breeding pairs). The Northern Gannet breed directly behind the visitor fence and can be observed absolutely closely! Best time to see the breeding birds is May to June. In the evenings of June the young flightless Common Guillemot and Razorbill jump from the cliff into the sea, the so called "Lummensprung".
For Birders Helgoland is very famous for its concentration of rare bird species, mainly occuring during autumn migration between September and November. Helgoland holds many first records for Germany and also for the Western Palearctic. Regular Rarities (although Oxymoron) are Yellow-browed Warbler, Pallas's Leaf Warbler, Rosy Starling , Little Bunting, Lapland Longspur, Richard's Pipit, but also see the species list below to get an overview about the stunning bird records (attached list + 53 species of unclear/escape origin). Especially during autumn migration weather conditions can concentrate huge amounts of (song)birds on and over the island with tenthousands of birds passing by.
During stormy conditions (strong NW-Winds) seawatching is worth to observe Arctic Skua (Parasitic Jaeger), Sooty Shearwater and Sabine's Gull. Even during Winter a visit is worth to see Great Northern Diver (Common Loon), Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Black Guillemot, European Shag and large concentrations of Purple Sandpiper and Rock Pipit. On the nextby Dune Island a Gray Seal population established with over 500 born individuals in the last years.
October every year the ornithological Working group (OAG) host a small 3-day bird festival ("Helgoländer Vogeltage") with presentations, bird quiz and bird race attracting hundreds of birders. Their Website is worth checking before visiting Helgoland as recent observations are updated daily. On Helgoland the bird observatory records and rings birds for over 110 years, one of the oldest bird ringing stations worldwide. The catching garden can be visited on guided tours offered by the Institute of Avian Research "Vogelwarte Helgoland". The nature conservation society "Verein Jordsand" also offers guided bird tours at the Common Guillemot-breeding cliff during May-June and bird and general guided tours on the neighboring Dune island. Summarizing, Helgoland is a place that every birder near Germany should have visited!
You can go to Helgoland by Ferry or by Airplane. Airplanes start from Cuxhaven/Spieka and Heide/Büsum. The Ferry from Cuxhaven is the most frequent ferry that also goes year-round. in summertime ferries also go from Bremerhaven, Büsum and occasionally from Hooksiel. There is also a high speed catamaran from Hamburg via Wedel and Cuxhaven, and a high speed catamaran from Sylt via Amrum. Birding is not possible from the high speed-ferries as they are too fast. Birding from the other ferries is highly recommended! Sightings of Great Skua, Arctic Skua (Parasitic Jaeger), Little Auk or Sooty Shearwater, as well as big flocks of Common Scoter are not too rare! Between the main Island and the Dune island a ferry departs every half hour.
Terrain and HabitatCanyon/cliff, Beach, Dunes, Sea, Grassland, Scattered trees and bushes
Is a telescope useful?Yes
Good birding seasonAll year round
Best time to visitAutumn
RouteUnpaved road, Wide path, Paved road, Narrow trail
Difficulty walking trailAverage walk
Accessible byFoot, Wheelchair
Birdwatching hide / platformNo
Please take care that the privacy of the local people is not violated! Do NOT go on the cemetery, do not enter privat gardens, despite rare birds! The ornithological society has published "social behavioural guidelines for birders" on their Website (in German). Better visit Helgoland for more than a daytrip to experience the island without mass day tourism. Be early in booking Hotels, as they are quickly booked out. There is a Birdcall - Whats-app group that keeps you updated in time on any rare bird on Helgoland. You can enter them freely. See the link below for description how to enter those.