Places in Helsinki where you can observe the wildlife

Seagull checking the sea.
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Observing animals in the wild is a fun family activity. Helsinki has plenty of wildlife, if you know where to look. In wintertime you can follow the tracks in the snow, which is a fun activity in itself. Here are some tips for getting started.

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Squirrels at Seurasaari

The squirrel is the official animal of Helsinki, and they are lots of fun to watch. They are usually very used to humans, and they can be found all over the city. The best place to interact with them is on the recreational island of Seurasaari, which is veritable paradise for squirrels. To get a really close look, try feeding the squirrels unsalted nuts and seeds.

Otters at the Old Town Rapids

The European otter, or “Lutra lutra” in Latin, is a bit more challenging to spot but all the more fun to observe if you do see one. By far the best place to do so is at the Old Town Rapids (Vanhankaunpunginkoski), where you can find their tracks along the shoreline. Otters would also appear to be the only fishermen who can openly defy the “All fishing prohibited” signs. If you don’t spot any otters, at least you will probably see a white-throated dipper, also known as the “Finnish penguin”.

Rabbits in Kaisaniemi Park

Helsinki has acquired somewhat of a questionable reputation for its “city bunnies”, which often make the headlines and are probably here to stay. The easiest place to catch a glimpse of them is Kaisaniemi Park, especially if you peer among its bushes and shrubs. Even if they don’t make an appearance, you can trace their tracks or look in any of the other parks in the city centre.

Hares in Viikki
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Hares in Viikki

If city bunnies seem like an odd type of wildlife, you can search for hares instead. They can be found all over the city, where they thrive even better than their forest cousins. The best place to spot hares is in the grassy fields of Viikki.

Small carnivores in Central Park

Large carnivores appear in Helsinki from time to time, but small carnivores can be found all the time so long as they have natural prey to feed on. Small carnivores thrive especially in forests, so the best place to look for them is Helsinki’s Central Park (Keskuspuisto). Of course, these creatures are quiet, shy and very fast. They will spot you long before you spot them, so more often than not you will only ever see their tracks. One exception is the weasel, who can get surprisingly close out of curiosity before scampering off again.

Mallards in Töölönlahti

Birds are probably the easiest animals to observe. Usually all you have to do is find a good place, make yourself comfortable and start looking all around you. The best place to observe mallards, i.e. wild ducks, is by the Töölönlahti bay right in the city centre. The bay has one of the largest populations of nesting mallards in Finland. Locals have fed the birds for years, and these days over 3000 ducks make their home in the bay each winter.

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Small birds in Haltiala

If the ducks, jackdaws and pigeons in the city centre are not challenging enough, head out to Haltiala. The Niskala arboretum and Haltiala primeval forest are home to many species of small birds. They can be spotted most easily by the feeding places along the paths through the arboretum. If you enter the primeval forest, simply stay still and be quiet: within five minutes you will see all the birds returning to their branches.

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Observing animals in the wild is a fun family activity. Helsinki has plenty of wildlife, if you know where to look. In wintertime you can follow the tracks in the snow. Here are seven tips for getting started.