Birds and Seal Watching

Observe and admire Wadden Sea wildlife

Birds

Seals

...A skein of geese cackle in the air. A wader cautiously picks its way on the newly-exposed seabed looking for worms and shells...

The Wadden Sea World Heritage area is one of the most important wetlands for waterbirds on earth. It plays a huge role as a crucial stopover for millions of migrating birds. Here you can observe waterbirds all year round, reaching a peak in spring and autumn - during the migration period. The daily activity of birds in the Wadden Sea is ruled by the tides. During high tide, when the tidal flats are covered by water, birds gather in huge flocks to roost on saltmarshes and sandbars and in inland polders with wetlands. To have a good view, climb the dike or one of the observation huts along the coast.

The best time for birdwatching is in the early morning and late evening hours when this coincides with a high tide. Then you have the most favourable light conditions and the birds will be concentrated near to the coast. During low tide almost all birds are out searching for food on the extensive tidal flats and most of them are out of sight. However, even then it is exciting to watch the aerobatics of distant flocks of birds on the horizon. Please beware of the local tides: Most tidal flats are flooded already two hours before high tide! You should arrive at your chosen observation point well in advance.

Moving to mammals, the Wadden Sea area enables visitors to glimpse grey seal and common seal in their natural element. Even harbour porpoise is sometimes to be found, mostly in Northern part of the National Park of Schleswig-Holstein. Nevertheless, you might spot some of the seals in the sea, sticking their heads above the waves and curiously looking at you back. On the sand banks huge groups of seals can be watched to gather. It is right here that they are resting in the sun or raising their young ones. And that is why it is essential that they are not disturbed.

The animal seal is indeed an amazing creature. A member of the pinniped family, seals are aptly suited to their watery environment. With streamlined bodies, their flippers propelling them quickly through the water, eyes that see well underwater, ear passages and nostrils that clamp shut while underwater, and insulating blubber, they are right to be called the acrobats of the sea despite being rather clumsy on land. The only place you can come and understand the wonder of these marine mammals is in the area like this!

The sustainable ways how to observe seals in their natural surroundings:

during special sealswatching boat trips provided in both the Netherlands and Germany (choose the certified 'Nationalpark-Partner' tour operators in Germany) from a ferryboat on your way to one of the Wadden Sea island
when tidal flat walking or sailing, but keep the distance for if they move away, you know you are definitely too close
from the beachside or while swimming