Russian Arctic

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla ©Graham Checkley Website
Birding the Russian Arctic

By the Russian Arctic we mean the Republic of Kerelia and the ‘Oblasts’ of Murmansk, Vologda and Arkhangel’sk, the Autonomous Oblast of Nenetsia and the island of Novaya Zemlya.

The Russian arctic is one of the richest ornithological regions in Europe. On the shore of Arctic Seas are situated a real kingdom of ducks, gulls, terns and many other sea birds. This magnificent site, in combination with harsh northern nature, will leave you with beautiful impressions. This region includes areas of dark coniferous forests (in the south) and tundra zone. Multicolored lichen-covered stones and unusual tree forms will be all around you during the entire trip. Lakes and rivers here seem to be quite wild and untouched. Even arctic tundra, nearby, turns out to be full of its own unique life. So in the forests you can meet up with a chorus of small birds, and on the sea islands it’s possible to observe the noisy seabird rookeries with there thousands of Guillemots and Kittiwakes.

Top Sites
  • Kandalakshsky Reserve

    InformationSatellite View
    Kandalakshsky reserve consists of two parts. One encompasses White Sea shoreline and a group of islands in Kandalakshsky bay. Forest birds and also sea birds can be found here. On the shore it’s possible to see rare birds of prey, such as White-tailed Eagle and Osprey: this two species regularly breed in this part of reserve. In the littoral zone large number of Charadriiformes species forage for food, the most numerous are Pied Oystercatchers and Turnstones. Cranes breed on the sedge swamps. Beautiful birds such as Razorbills, Guillemots and Whooper Swans, inhabit some islands of Kandalakshsky bay. The most attractive species among the ducks is Eider, which is usually thought of as a symbol of Arctic Seas. Moreover, near the shore it is easy to see Black Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser. The other part of reserve situated in the Barents Sea, in the tundra faunal zone. On the reserve islands are large rookeries. Primary bird species here are Common Guillemot, Thick-billed Guillemot and Kittiwake. On the Ainovy islands you can find breeding sites for Puffin and Eider. Also it’s possible to see Ruffs, which are known by their wonderful breeding plumage, and Red-necked Phalaropes. Small passerine birds are not so various here, but alert birdwatchers can find typical Arctic inhabitants such as Lapland Bunting and Snow Bunting.
  • Olonetskaya Valley

  • Vodlozersky National Park

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Vodlozero Lake is one of the largest lakes in Europe. 10% of Vodlozersky National Park is covered by water. Untouched by humans, rivers, lakes and wetlands attract a lot of birds. Different species of Geese, Swans, Ducks and other water birds make their stops during migrations. Large number of predator birds breeds on the banks and in surrounding forests. Among them there are such rare species as White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Spotted Eagle and Peregrine. Red-throated and Black-throated Divers and Bewick’s swans can be found on the large lakes of the National Park. In the coniferous taiga forests a lot of Galliformes birds can be found – Capercailyes, Willow grouse and others. Among passerine birds most of the species are typical European ones, but some of them originate from Siberian avifauna, for example, Red-flanked Bluetail and Lanceolated Warbler.
Useful Reading

  • Atlas of Breeding Waders in the Russian Arctic

    By Elena G Lappo, Pavel S Tomkovich & Evgeny Syroechkovskiy | Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences | 2012 | Paperback | 448 pages, colour photos, 173 colour distribution maps, colour tables | Russian Text with English summaries | ISBN: 9785866760725 Buy this book from
  • Arctic Breeding Birds Survey

    The International Breeding Conditions Survey on Arctic Birds. The International Breeding Conditions Survey on Arctic Birds (ABBCS) is a joint venture of International Wader Study Group and Wetlands International's Goose and Swan Specialist Groups. This project aims at collating information on environmental conditions on breeding grounds of Arctic nesting birds in a persistently updated database. Analyses of data on bird numbers and breeding performance during Arctic summer in relation to climatic, predatory and other relevant factors can give insights into ecological processes acting at wide scale, and also provide valuable information for the conservation of sites and species.

Abbreviations Key

  • BR Lapland Biosphere Reserve

    InformationSatellite View
    Lapland Nature Reserve is a strict nature reserve in Murmansk Oblast, Russia, above the Arctic Circle. There are a number of 'ecotourist' routes in the reserve, however, that are open to the public
  • NP Vodlozersky

    InformationSatellite View
    Vodlozersky National Park is located in Onezhsky District of Arkhangelsk Oblast and Pudozhsky District in the Republic of Karelia. The National Park has the status of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and was created to protect coniferous forests (taiga) of the Northern Russia. It covers 4,280 square kilometres (1,650 square miles). At the time of creation, Vodlozersky National Park was the second-largest national park in Europe after Yugyd Va National Park. The park area includes Lake Vodlozero, the river basin of the Ileksa, the main inflow of the lake, and the upper course of the Vodla, the outflow.
  • NR Kandalaksha

    InformationSatellite View
    Kandalakshsky is a strict ecological reserve on the south shore of Kandalaksha Bay in the Murmansk and Karelia regions on the opening to the White Sea. The reserve also includes two small sectors on the northern coast of the Kola peninsula on the Barents Sea. The Kandalaksha Reserve is the main breeding ground in Russia for the Atlantic and large crested cormorants, and for the Atlantic gray seal. Beluga is the most famous among cetaceans while other species such as harbour porpoises, whales (bowhead, humpback, rorquals, northern bottlenose, orcas) less frequently appear. Also, almost all common eider in the Murmansk region breed in the reserve. The sea ducks prefer to nest on treeless islands. High numbers of fish - particularly cod, haddock, and lumpfish, are a draw for the waterfowl. Characteristic mammals of the reserve include moose, brown bear, fox, hare, squirrel, marten, and ermine. Common birds include black grouse, ptarmigan, kestrel, and large owls.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Ecological Travel Center - Flying landlords of the Kola s tundra

    Tour Operator
    With patience and luck, one third part of the bird species in Russia can be found on the Kola peninsula. Some of them are rare, seasonal migrants, others inhabit the vast tundra, mountains and forests of the peninsula and the shores of the White and Barents seas. The tour program includes all the key bird habitats of the region, over 200 of which will be seen by the luckiest travellers.
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Mikhail Shlemov

    Wildlife Photos by Mikhail Shlemov from Nenets Autonomous Okrug…

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