Birds of prey
We both see and hear life in the air when we visit the mountains. The large birds of prey hunt small game, rodents and small birds.
The golden eagle, the second largest bird of prey in Norway, has a wingspan of 2.2 meters. The female is the largest, something that is common in birds of prey.
The rough-legged buzzard, with a wingspan of 1.2 to 1.5 meters, is often present during good small rodent years, and this the only large bird of prey that ‘hovers’; i.e. that it is able to stay completely still in the air by flapping its wings while looking for prey. The gyrfalcon also has a large wingspan that can measure up to 1.6 meters, and this is Norway’s largest falcon. This bird is a very fast hunter that usually attacks its prey in the air at high speed. The gyrfalcon’s favorite food is ptarmigan, and they often nest in areas that have good populations of ptarmigan. Kestrels, northern hawk-owls and short-eared owls are other birds of prey that visitors often encounter in Jotunheimen.
The ptarmigan has adapted to life in the high mountains, and somewhat follows the fluctuations of small rodent populations. Ptarmigan are able to raise more chicks when there are many other types of prey for predators to eat during good small rodent years. Rock ptarmigan are able to camouflage themselves in the heather and moss with their mottled brown summer plumage. During the winter, rock ptarmigan change to a white plumage, which again serves as camouflage in the snow, and they often fly up right before you stand on them.
The most common small birds found in the mountain birch forests and above the treeline include snow buntings, meadow pipits, bramblings, common redpolls, willow warblers, northern wheatears and bluethroats. Several species of small birds are currently experiencing declines in population
With its blue and reddish-brown breast, the bluethroat is an exotic bird to see, and they can be found in birch forests, and in willow thickets in the high mountains. The male competes with others in order to find a mate, and he uses his colorful plumage and beautiful song to attract a female. The female, having responsibility for the eggs and the chicks, doesn’t have such flamboyant plumage as the male, and she blends in with her surroundings.
There is not a particularly large variety of wetland bird species here, but golden plovers are often regular companions of the mountain hiker. These birds are easy to recognize by the rather melancholy whistling sound they make and the characteristic bright stripes on their sides. Golden plovers are among the birds that build their nests on the ground in the mountains.