Republic of Estonia

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis ©Remo Savisaar Website
Birding Estonia

Estonia is a small country on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. The area of the country is only 45,200 sq km, but its landscape is quite varied. Estonia has over 7,000 rivers and brooks, 1,500 lakes, and nearly 1,000 maritime islands and islets. The largest islands are Saaremaa (2,700 sq km); Hiiumaa (1,000 sq km) and Muhu (200 sq km). The largest lakes are Peipsi (3,600 sq km) and Vortsjarv (270 sq km). Estonia is a wooded and swampy country – nearly 40 percent of the area is covered with forests and 20 percent with marshes.

Estonian territory can be roughly divided into Lower Estonia and Upper Estonia. West Estonia, North Estonia and the basins of Lake Peipsi and Lake Vortsjarv belong to Lower Estonia, while Upper Estonia can be divided into the Estonian watershed and South Estonia. The average altitude is 50 m, while the highest point (Suur-Munamagi Hill) rises 318 m above sea level. West Estonian Biosphere Reserve, four National Parks, five Nature Reserves and 480 various protected areas are all part of an effort to preserve Estonia’s flora and fauna. The total area of the protected territory makes up about 10 percent of Estonia. There are 210 protected plants and 300 animal species that are endangered or rare and stand in need of special protection.

Estonia’s bird fauna includes 332 species, 222 of which are breeding birds. [The number of bird species on the Estonian territory established as at 01.01.1994 is 332. Of these 206 species are regular breeders (in addition, 11 species breed irregularly and 5 occasionally); 38 regular transit migrants and winter visitors (in addition, 11 species are regular transit migrants and/or winter visitors). The remaining 70 species are vagrants – data by the Estonian Rarities committee. Extract from: E Leibak, V Lilleleht & H Veromann – Birds of Estonia. Status, Distribution and Numbers. ]. Because of a favourable geographical position in the East Atlantic flyway, millions of birds pass through Estonia in spring and autumn. Along the northern coast an impressive migration of waterfowl and shorebirds takes place during the autumn. At the same time, millions of passerine birds are flying along the coasts of Lake Peipsi and West Estonia. Up to 30,000 common cranes also use Estonia as a resting ground during their autumn migration.

In the spring, thousands of diving ducks, long-tailed ducks, scaup, common scoter, velvet scoter, and black-throated divers are concentrated in Riga Bay and Vainameri. As many as 100,000 Barnacle Geese may use West Estonia as a stopover during the spring migration. Estonia is also a very important spring staging area for Bewick’s Swan. During moult migration in July and August, up to 200,000 common scoter pass through Estonia.

Besides the excellent possibilities of watching the bird migration, Estonia also has many localities with rich breeding faunas. At some of these localities you can watch breeding birds in summer and migrating birds in spring and autumn.All the foregoing is extracted, with permission, from: Aivar Leito – Bird-watching Localities in Estonia.

This page is sponsored by NaTourEst

  • Dr. Jevgeni Shergalin

    Tallinn - Estonia |

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 339

    221 Breeding (As at october 2018)

    National Bird: Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

  • iGoTerra Checklist

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Useful Reading

  • Birding Estonia

    By Uku Paal & Margus Ots | Eesti Loodusfoto | 2018 | Paperback | 176 pages | ISBN: 9789949460281 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Estonia

    (Status, Distribution and Numbers) | Edited by Eerik Leibak, Vilju Lillileht & Heinrich Veromann | Estonian Ornithological Society | 1994 | Hardback | 287 pages, 2 maps | ISBN: 9789985500316 Buy this book from
  • Finding Birds in Estonia

    By Dave Gosney | Easy Birder | 2011 | Paperback | 36 Pages, B&W Maps | ISBN: 9781907316296 Buy this book from
  • Finding Birds in Estonia

    by Dave Gosney | Easy Birder | 2011 | DVD | Runtime 85 Minutes | ISBN: 9781907316302 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • Conservation

    The tradition of nature conservation in Estonia is over 70 years old. Our first nature reserve (that of Vaika, the present Vilsandi State Nature Reserve) was founded as early as 1910. Our first nature conservation law was passed in 1935. The one in force at the present time dates back to 1957. To date Estonia has one national park, 4 state nature reserves and 29 various partial reserves, all of these covering 5% of its territory. Other protected objects include 37 landscape elements, 47 parks, 3 dendroparks, 11 orchards and a number of old fruit-trees, 222 erratic boulders and boulder-strewn areas, 330 old trees and copses, 59 plant and 198 animal species. From: An Ornithological Journey through the Estonia S.S.R. Guide to an excursion for the participants of the 18th International Ornithological Congress (Moscow, August 1982). Tallinn Valgus press. 1981. Edited by E.Kumari. Introduction. Pp.3-4.
  • Kabli Bird Observatory

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    Hundreds of birds, which have been marked in Kabli Bird Station, have been found again. Most of the recoveries come from the bird stations around of Baltic Sea. These recoveries give the opportunity to calculate the migration speed and identify migration routs. With the cooperation of other bird stations is possible to follow the bird migration both in the time and space
  • Eagle Club

    The Eagle Club is a non-governmental organisation whose members have studied, observed and protected eagles for decades. Currently, the Eagle Club comprises 25 members who occupy themselves with research on eagles and black stork and their protection in Estonia. They include both specialists in ornithology and nature conservation, foresters, and also enthusiasts of nature and eagles protection…
  • EstBirding

    Estonian Birding/Twitching Club run by keen Estonian birders. Our main purpose is to give up-to-date information on local rarities and other bird related news. Plus you can find some trip reports and articles. Our gallery has 1000+ photos of Estonian and world birds, local rarities, abberrant birds/hybrids, plus some material of our birding community in action…
  • Estonian Fund for Nature

    The mission of ELF (Eestimaa Looduse Fond - Estonian Fund for Nature) is to preserve the rich natural diversity in Estonia and the world through active cooperation with individuals, business enterprises, organizations and state institutions
  • Estonian Ornithological Society

    Baer House, Vesti Str. 4, 50002 Tartu.+372 7 422195; Now some parts in English
  • Looduskalender

    Estonian nature protecting project. Looduskalender offers some live streams: Small Bird Feeder Camera, Lesser Spotted Eagle Camera, Black Stork Camera, White-tailed Eagle Nest Camera, Eagle Winter Webcam, Grey Seal Webcam etc. (not all of them are open; it´s changing during the year).
  • Läänemaa Bird Club

    Recent observations from Western Estonia, as well as some materials and links, local birdlists and maps are available. Homepage is mostly in Estonian, but there are pages for English-speaking reader…
  • Viron Lintuseura

    Estonian Birding Society (a finnish non-profit NGO, since 1997) seeks to further the protection and knowledge of birds and bird areas in Estonia; upholds co-operation between Finnish and Estonian bird watchers and promotes birding as a hobby in Estonia. We collect bird-observations in collaboration with Tartu University eElurikkus

Abbreviations Key

  • BR West Estonian Archipelago

    InformationSatellite View
    The West Estonian Islands Biosphere Reserve
  • Estonia's IBAs

    WebpageSatellite View
    There are 64 IBAs in Estonia
  • NP Karula

    InformationSatellite View
    It is the smallest national park in Estonia. The flora of the national park is rich, and includes several species red-listed in Estonia such as the Baltic orchid, mezereon and the daisyleaf grape fern; the latter is only found in three locations in Estonia and Karula is one of them. The fauna also incorporates unusual and threatened species, such as the pond bat, the lesser spotted eagle and the black stork. Mammals like elk, lynx and polecat are common.
  • NP Lahemaa

    InformationSatellite View
    Protection, conservation and interpretation of typical nature and cultural heritage for Northern Estonia, included ecosystems, biodiversity, landscapes, etnoculture and sustainable nature use…
  • NP NR Matsalu

    InformationSatellite View
    It is made up of Matsalu Bay, the Kasari River delta, the village of Matsalu and surrounding areas. It is a home for a number of endangered species, many of which are listed in the Estonian IUCN Red List, including the white-tailed eagle.
  • NP Vilsandi

    InformationSatellite View
    It includes part of the island of Vilsandi, a number of smaller islands, adjacent parts of western Saaremaa and the Harilaid peninsula on Saaremaa, all in Kihelkonna Parish and Lääne-Saare Parish. It is a highly sensitive ecosystem due to the use of the area as stop-over by many migratory birds, like barnacle geese and Steller's eider, and as a breeding and nesting ground for over 247 species of birds, of which the most common is the eider duck. One third of all protected plant species in Estonia can also be found in the national park.
  • NP WII Soomaa

    InformationSatellite View
    Soomaa (land of bogs) protects 390 km², and is a Ramsar site of protected wetlands. The site regularly supports more than 1% of the individuals in relevant populations of Cygnus columbianus and Grus grus, and the composition of bird species in these bogs, especially Kuresoo, is one of the most representative in Estonia. Species recorded include Aquila chrysaetos, Numenius phaeopus (more than 100 pairs), Pluvialis apricaria (ca 150 pairs) Calidris alpina schinzii, Falco columbarius, Lagopus lagopus, and Circus pygargus. During the autumn migration, it is a stopover and roosting site for Grus grus (approximately 1,000) and Cygnus columbianus (approximately 500), and during spring migration (approximately 2,000) for C. columbianus. Crex crex is still numerous on floodplain meadows (50-100 pairs). It is an important spawning ground for the fish Esox lucius.
  • NR Agusalu

    InformationSatellite View
    The nature reserve encompasses a portion of a large area of wetlands, and the landscape is dominated by bogs; however it is also the location of the only system of continental sand dunes in Estonia, overgrown with rare old-growth forest. The area is home to a number of rare or protected species. From the fauna, grey wolf and Eurasian lynx can be mentioned, as well as several birds - it is the most important nesting area in Estonia for the common greenshank and home to both white-tailed eagle and golden eagle.
  • NR Muraka

    InformationSatellite View
    The nature reserve is characterised by its wetlands; several large bogs are surrounded by mires, swamps, fens and rivulets. In addition, there are also areas of unspoilt forest. The nature reserve is one of few remaining wilderness areas in north-east Estonia.
  • NR Nigula

    InformationSatellite View
    One of the oldest and best researched bog and forest ecosystem protection areas is known as a bog reference site all across Europe. The Nature Reserve was established in 1957. Since 1979 it is a bird area of international importance.
  • NR WII Alam-Pedja

    InformationSatellite View
    Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve is the largest nature reserve in Estonia. It is a vast wilderness area which covers 342 km2 (85,000 acres) and consists of a complex of 5 large bogs separated by unregulated rivers, their floodplains, and extensive forests. The only types of lakes found in the nature reserve are oxbow lakes and more than 2000 bog pools. Alam-Pedja is the most important breeding area for great snipe in Estonia and the Baltic countries. The greater spotted eagle is another threatened bird species breeding in the area
  • Nature Reserves in Estonia

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Protected areas in Estonia cover 485,198 hectares, that is 10.73% of the national territory (water areas not included)
  • Wetlands

    WebpageSatellite View
    The convention entered into force in Estonia on 29 July 1994. Estonia currently has 17 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 304,778 hectares.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • Linnuhuvilised

    Mailing List
    Mailing List – Discussion Group Discussion of birds in Estonia. Messages in Estonian
Guides & Tour Operators
  • NaTourEst - Nature & Birdwatching Tours in Estonia

    Tour Operator
    Estonia, a small country on the shores of the Eastern Baltic Sea, is increasingly popular among birdwatchers, who flock in ever increasing numbers to watch spectacular arctic migration in spring and autumn. There is much more to offer, even in wintertime…
Trip Reports
  • 2014 [10 October] - Christopher Hall

    ...Incredibly one of the Black Grouse perches on a telegraph wire, and just down the road we find the other three perched in the tops of tall birches, just like crows! On the western shore of Lake Peipus (the fourth largest lake in Europe) we count at least five White-tailed Eagles, and at one point I have three in the same scope view! From our vantage point, looking across to the Russian side, we watch a flock of Jays cross the lake from the east, followed by a single Black Woodpecker, which promptly decides to turn back...
  • 2015 [06 June] - Chris Durdin & Ivan Nethercoat

    PDF Report
    ...Slavonian grebes are thought of as a sensitive species, yet they were making floating nests a few metres off the bank despite fishermen casting among them and group of noisy children in bathing costumes splashing around on a landing stage.
  • 2015 [07 July] - Greenwings

    PDF Report
    Many people head south on holiday to see butterflies around the Med or in the Alps, assuming that the Baltic states are too far north to be interesting. Yet Estonia is a relatively untamed country, a land of forests, lakes and islands. It is on the great migratory routes for birds and moths. It has a very high proportion of its land designated as National Parks or nature reserves, but not the over-regulated sorts.
  • 2015 [07 July] - Luca Bergamaschi

    PDF Report
    ...Birding in Estonia in mid-July probably is not the best option: some passerines have stopped singing and grouses and some woodpeckers are very difficult to find. On the other hand, some other passerines are still singing and by July the migration of waders and ducks (peak of Common Scoter passage) begins to give good observations.
  • 2016 [06 June] - Ivan Nethercoat

    PDF Report
    … a white-tailed eagle flew low toward us and kept on going toward a small group of greylag geese. It then dropped down onto one of the birds, standing on it for a few moments and then flying off with a young goose.
  • 2021 [08 August] - Frank van Groen

    PDF Report
    I made this individual trip to the Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia with my wife Inka. The trip was organised by the dutch travel agency SNP Natuurreizen. We used a almost new hired car (Toyota Yaris hybrid, 30km/L, distance travelled 2003 km), except for the city trip in Tallinn. During our stay the weather was fine, with almost no rain and moderate temperatures.
  • 2022 [03 March] - Michiel de Boer

    The other reason to visit Estonia (apart from visiting a new country) was to find my last Owl of Europe and my number one wanted missing species of Europe: Ural Owl. Also, Ural Owl is quite likely there though March is a little bit early.
  • 2022 [04 April] - Mark Bonello

    PDF Report
    The visit was timed to manage some of the early spring migration as well as to see the wintering birds. Our main targets included Black Grouse, Bohemian Waxwing, Ural Owl, Pygmy Owl, Cappercaille and Hazel Grouse. Unfortunately the latter two were flushed and not seen properly while for the rest we had particularly good views. It was an exceptionally good winter to observe hawk owls but our timing was late and no records of this species would be taken back home, as they had already left.
  • 2023 [02 February] - Sofia Broström

    PDF Report
    I visited Estonia in February 2023 with some friends - Ingrid Evaldsson, Mikael Qvarfordh and Markus Qvarfordh. Our primary target was to see overwintering Steller’s Eiders from Saaremaa, a mission that was accomplished on our first morning there. Despite the early season, we were also hoping to see some owls and woodpeckers both on Saaremaa (Vidumäe Nature Reserve) and on the mainland - mainly Soomaa National Park - but apart from a Middle Spotted Woodpecker (and lots of Great Spotted) we did not succeed on that front.
Places to Stay
  • Algallika Guesthouse

    Algallika guesthouse rooms are renovated in 2008 and 2014. Our rooms have big windows with sea, garden and fields view. Whole house is heated with geothermal energy...
  • Tuulingu Puhkemaja Holiday Cottage - Haeska village, Matsalu National Park

    If you are fond of seaside places with a tender breeze, coastal meadows, sea birds and the sun that sets behind the cape and you wish to have a rest at such an idyllic place - well, you have opened the right page. Come and visit Matsalu National Park, where unique coastal meadows open to the sea have preserved up to now. In Haeska which is on the migration route of tens of thousands of birds you can observe the birds
Other Links
  • Hirundo

    Hirundo, the journal of the Estonian Ornithological Society, is issued twice a year. It publishes ornithological papers, comments and instructions, as well as EOS news. The journal is focused on original studies and discussion about Estonian birds, their numbers, biology and conservation.
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Arne Ader

    Loodusemees Image Library
  • Photographer - Remo Savisaar

    Eastonian birding BLOG mostly in pictures
  • Photographer - Sven Zacek

    Stunningly good and very unusual nature photography
  • Photographer - Tony Galv

    Tony Galv

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

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