photo @ Visit Finland / Tea Karvinen
Birdwatching in Finland
There are 460 species of bird in Finland, although 7 of these have not been seen since 1950. Thanks to Finland being the most eastern country in Europe, and one of the most northern in the world, there are a number of species rarely enountered anywhere else in Europe, which makes Finland very popular with birdwatchers everywhere.
Those who make the trip come to see Black and Great spotted woodpeckers; Pygmy, Great Grey, and Snowy owls; White tailed and Golden eagles; Merlin; Pink footed geese; Willow and Siberian tits; Black grouse and Capercaillie; and many others that are rare elsewhere. There is an especially large number of birds of prey, including some 23 types of kites, hawks, and eagles, 9 types of falcon, 11 types of owl, and the osprey. Finnish birders greet the spring with great enthusiasm, with April and May being their busiest months as many migrants return north, including Finland’s national bird, the elegant Whooper swan.
Reasons why Finland is Birding heaven – A Birdwatchers dream destination
Location, Location, Location:
Finland is the most easternmost country in Europe, and one of the most northerly too. Thanks to its location in Europe, Finland affords the birder with opportunities to see many species of birds that are difficult to see elsewhere. These include, but are not limited to, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Arctic Warbler, Pine Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Bunting and Little Bunting.
If there’s one thing Finland has in abundance, apart from lakes, it is natural coniferous forests. These forests are home to no less than four types of woodpecker – the Grey Headed, Three-toed, White-backed and Black varieties. The same forests are teeming with game birds, such as the Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Hazel Hen, Willow Grouse and Ptarmigan. In the most northerly regions of Finland the pine forests and birch woods of the fells are home to the elusive Parrot Crossbill, Lapland Bunting, Siberian Jay and Siberian Tit.
For many birders visiting Finland, it is the owls that are of particular interest; as many as 10 types of owl can be found nesting in Finland in a good year. The smallest of these is the delightful Pygmy Owl, the largest is the Snowy Owl, and, according to nature photographer David Tipling, the Great Grey Owl is the sexiest! Other owls that can be found are the Barn Owl (rare), the Ural Owl (uncommon), and the Eurasian Eagle Owl, Short-eared Owl, Long-eared Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Little Owl and Tengmalm’s Owl, all of which are common enough.
Birds of Prey – the Raptors of Finland:
Birders visiting Finland can seek out up to 21 different types of raptor, depending on the year. The most common of these are the Northern Goshawk, Northern and Western Marsh Harriers, Common and Honey Buzzards, White-tailed Eagle, Osprey, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Hobby, and the Gyrfalcon. Much less common are the Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Buzzard, and the Merlin and Red-footed Falcons. Finally, the six rare raptors that might be found by the dedicated and most patient birders (or the luckiest!) are the Lesser Spotted and Greater Spotted Eagles, the Red and Black Kites, Montagu’s Harrier and the Peregrine Falcon.
Fens and Bogs – Birds in the open:
The open habitats of Finland are home to some species that have become quite rare in other regions of Europe, such as the Ortolan Bunting. The bogs and fens offer the keen birder the chance to see a wide variety of waders usually only seen in their winter plumage or during the course of their migrations, such as Temminck’s Stint, the Jack Snipe, the Broad-billed and Wood Sandpipers, and the Red-necked Phalarope.
Another reason for Finland’s high standing in the world of ornithology can be attributed to the sights towards the end of May and early June, as well as in late September and October, by the mass migration off the coast as waterbirds make their way to and from the arctic. In Southern Finland the best time to witness the migration is in the middle of May, and in Ostrobothnia the end of May is key. Summer migrants and eastern rarities tend to reach Lapland in the middle of June. Come September and October the birder may be rewarded by sightings of such rare eastern species as Richard’s Pipit or the Yellow-browed warbler. This is also the best time for seeing migrants such as the Waxwing, the Pine Grosbeak, the Nutcracker, or three species of Crossbill.
Finnish Nature – one of Europe’s last true wildernesses:
Of course, the variety of avian life is more than complemented by the beauty of the unspoiled natural environment in which you will find yourself. With 69% of the country covered by forests, and 10% by lakes, Finland is sparcely populated making it ideal for birders. The majority of the forests are owned by ordinary private citizens, and Jokamiehenoikeus (Everyman’s Right) allows everyone to benefit from nature by walking, skiing, hiking, canoeing, rowing, gathering mushrooms or berries or birdwatching in the countryside wherever they please provided they do not cause any damage to the environment or any inconvenience to the landowners.
Finns have long felt themselves to be a part of the natural world that they live in, and their respect for their environment is noticeable wherever you travel in Finland. There are an incredible 39 National Parks in Finland, as well as 12 Wilderness Areas, and over 200,000 islands scattered among the country’s archipelagos, presenting the birder with a wealth of choices. 19 of the National Parks have a visitor centre which provides information on that region, as well as exhibitions and presentations, and detailed maps. In addition, in almost every town in Finland you’ll find a tourist information centre where you can find local guides who know the area best. There are also plenty of tour operators catering specifically for birdwatchers visiting Finland.