Flora & Fauna

Fabulous flora and fauna

For its size, and thanks to a unique climate and geology, Colonsay boasts an impressive range of natural habitats, including woodland, moorland, peat bogs, meadows, the machair (raised beaches) and shoreline.

Many birds, both resident and visiting, thrive on the island. The corncrake, one of Britain's rarest birds, is Colonsay's most famous avian resident and is part of the reason for the RSPB's permanent presence on Colonsay and Oronsay.

Many rare and beautiful ferns flourish all over the island; both varieties of the hymenophyllum, the Tonbridge Fern, and Wilson's, carpet the damp boulders with their moss-like growth; and in every cave and cleft along the shore the shining fronds of Asplenium Marinum depend in luxuriant profusion ..... 

Alfred Erskine Gaythorne-Hardy

Where to spot wildlife

The dramatic cliffs on the western coast of Colonsay are home to enormous colonies of seabirds, notably fulmars, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, shags and all types of gull.

Meanwhile, the beaches and rocky inlets support colonies of ringed plover, terns, oyster catchers and eiders, among others. For those with an interest in ornithology please visit our flora and fauna page.

There are also a number of seal colonies on offshore islands off Oronsay and the south-west coast of Colonsay. The seals, both common and grey Atlantic, are plentiful and curious about humans, so they are easily spotted.

The local otters are far more elusive although you may find their distinctive tracks in many places. Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to see otters on early morning or evenings on a calm day

More unusual inhabitants of the eastern shoreline of Colonsay are the wild goats, reputedly the descendants of Spanish goats carried on an Armada vessel shipwrecked on Colonsay.

Flora & Fauna

Island plants and trees

Colonsay and Oronsay are also a rich source of interest for the plant lover. The woodland gardens surrounding Colonsay House contain an enormous variety of exotic rhododendrons, as well as mimosa, eucalyptus and palm trees and many other small plants that benefit from the shelter of the trees and the mild climate.

April, May and June are the best times to appreciate the woodland gardens. On Wednesdays during the summer the private formal gardens immediately surrounding Colonsay House are also opened to the public.

The hills, moorlands and shore offer impressive botanical interest and beauty throughout the year. The list of indigenous island plants is long and includes, of special interest, more than 30 species of fern.

Rarer plants can be seen on the island, too, such as Sea Samphire, Marsh Helleborine and the Orchis, Spiranthes romanzoffiana, which was first found at Uragaig on Colonsay in 1930.

In spring, there are beautiful swathes of bluebells and primroses and, in summer, you can see heath orchids, wild roses, honeysuckle and fuchsia. In the later months of summer, the island is resplendent with yellow irises and heather.

See the Colonsay Community website for more details of flora and fauna.