Matsalu - Unique Place for Birdwatching
Matsalu National Park is one of the most unique places for birdwatching in Estonia and worldwide. Bring your binoculars, and you may witness a delightful bird spectacle right from our backyard or while observing from the nearby Keemu harbor and observation tower!
Matsalu is located on the most important migration corridor for water and coastal birds – the East Atlantic Flyway. Therefore, every spring and autumn, more than 2 million water and coastal birds pass through this area, whose breeding grounds are located in Scandinavia or Northwestern Russia. In the national park, more than 290 bird species have been observed.
The spring migration of birds begins before the bay ice melts, when flocks of geese and swans appear on fields thawing from under the snow. Early in spring, the first migrants are already in place at the end of February, usually in mid-March. The most intense migration takes place from the end of March to mid-May. In April and May, tens of thousands of barnacle geese stop in Matsalu, feeding on the local coastal meadows and fields for several weeks. During the autumn migration, 15,000–20,000 cranes also stop in the shallow bays of Matsalu.
In addition to migrating birds, Matsalu is an important breeding site for several endangered bird species across Europe. Many protected breeding birds are associated with maintained wetlands or coastal meadows (such as the ruff, black-tailed godwit, marsh harrier, and great snipe).
Next to meadows, another important habitat is the 2,500-hectare reed bed in the delta of the Kasari River. Noteworthy species nesting in the reed bed include the bittern (category II protection), marsh harrier (category III protection), graylag goose, spotted crake (category III protection), savi's warbler, great reed warbler, common reed warbler and several others.
In addition to nesting birds, the reed bed is an important molting area for red-breasted mergansers, pochards, and graylag geese in midsummer.
On the Matsalu islands, gulls and terns nest, as well as mute swans, various dabbling and diving ducks (such as the mallard, pintail, tufted duck, scaup, pochard, eider), and waders (such as the common ringed plover and oystercatcher).