GALLERY: Discovering Finland’s urban wildlife residents

Birds, mammals and other small creatures are all around us in Finland, including urban areas like Helsinki, Espoo and Kirkkonummi as this month's gallery shows.

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Red fox / Credit: Paul Stevens

How well do you know your neighbours? No, not your human neighbours, but the other animals that share our cities, towns and villages with us.

There is a surprising variety of wildlife in Finnish towns. From small rodents
like voles to large mammals such as elk (moose), from small birds to birds of prey like owls and eagles. Some animals are even doing better in urban environments than in their traditional forest homes.

However, apart from the small centres of the bigger cities, Finnish cities are quite green and open compared to many other cities around the world.

Some animals dwell in urban environments all year long, others are seasonal visitors. For example, great grey owls live and nest in northern Finland but come down south when they can’t find enough food in their natural environment.

White-tailed sea eagle

Perhaps one of the most surprising birds to make its home in Helsinki and successfully raise three young is the white-tailed sea eagle. A pair of these magnificent birds nested for the first time in Old Town Bay in 2020. Let’s see if they raise a family again in 2021. This is especially significant, because in the 1970’s the white-tailed seas eagle was almost extinct in Finland. A recovery and conservation programme since then has led to their population increase and nowadays their population is reasonably healthy.

Red squirrel / Credit: Paul Stevens

The red squirrel is not doing well in its native forests, where its population is decreasing,
perhaps because of modern forestry practices. In urban areas, however, it is thriving. Just about anywhere in Finnish towns and villages you can find red squirrels. Some of them are quite bold and willing to eat nuts directly from the hand.

Rabbits / Credit: Paul Stevens

Rabbits are not native to Finland. All of the rabbits in Finnish cities are descendants of pets that have either escaped from captivity or been released by their human owners. They have not expanded very far, and you can only find them in small populations in the bigger cities. They do seem to have established themselves though with self-sustaining, small populations.

If you want to learn more about Finnish urban wildlife, see some great photos, and you can read Finnish, go over to Elämää Kaupungissa. This a project by nine Finnish nature photographers who want to raise awareness of the animals with which we share our lives.

On the first day of each month, a new story about urban wildlife will be published. Each month we also have a photography challenge within the project and the results are published on the 16th of each month.

You can, if you wish, sign up to their newsletter which will inform you when anything new gets published.

This gallery comes from the lens of Espoo-based wildlife photographer Paul Stevens. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook.