Of mammals, 64 species have been identified in Estonia. Three of these — the muskrat, the racoon dog and the American mink — have been introduced into Estonia and two — the European beaver and the red deer — reintroduced. In comparison with other European countries, Estonia’s present mammal fauna is characterised by a relatively high abundance of the brown bear, the wolf, the lynx and the European otter. The European mink has probably become extinct during the last decade. There have been virtually no records of gleridans — the garden dormouse and the hazel dormouse — either. A species typical of taiga forests, the flying squirrel, still survives here, but it is extremely rare.

The total of 329 species of birds have been recorded in Estonia. Of these, 222 species breed in Estonia (206 of them regularly), 38 are transit migrants or winter visitors and the rest are occasional visitors. The territory of Estonia lies on the East-Atlantic migration route of Arctic migratory birds. Due to the large areas of low coastal sea, the indented coastline with lots of bays, and the abundant wetlands, numerous waterfowl stop in Estonia during their spring and autumn migration. Millions of long-tailed ducks, common and velvet scoters feed in the Bay of Livonia and the Väinameri Sea at that time, while hundreds of thousands of barnacle geese and brent geese stop on the coastal meadows. Of the three Baltic republics, only Estonia has plentiful islands, and these provide breeding sites for many sea birds, e.g. the common eider the red-breasted merganser, the velvet scoter and the Caspian tern. Significant changes have taken place in the Estonian sea bird fauna in the last few decades — the numbers of gulls and the cormorant have increased dramatically, while the number of breeding pairs of ducks and waders has considerably decreased.

The bird fauna of the Estonian bogs and forests is rich too. Abundant cranes and waders breed here. However, the numbers of galli — the black grouse and the capercaillie — have continuously decreased and the willow grouse has reached the verge of extinction. As in other countries of the Baltic Sea region, there is a viable population of the white-tailed eagle and the osprey in Estonia at present. The relatively high numbers of the golden eagle, which is absent in some neighbouring regions (Latvia, South Finland), is also worth mentioning. A few pairs of the extremely rare spotted eagle also breed in Estonia. The number of breeding pairs of the black stork is decreasing. Approximately half of the bird species that breed in Estonia are forest species, mostly passerines. The most abundant bird species in Estonia are the chaffinch and the wood wren (also: willow warbler).

The cultural heritage landscapes of Estonia support also bird species that have become extinct or rare in several neighbouring countries. Of such species, the great snipe breeds in some places on the Estonian floodplain meadows, the corn crake is abundant, and the dunlin breeds on coastal meadows.

Sixty five species of fish have been found in the waters of Estonia. Due to the low salinity of the water of the Baltic Sea, the distinction between marine and freshwater fish species is somewhat conditional. There are only a few typical marine species in Estonia. These are of Atlantic origin and are adapted to living in the Baltic Sea: the sprat, the Baltic herring. There are no endemic fish species in Estonia, although two endemic sub-species — the Peipsi lavaret and the Peipsi sparling live in Lake Peipsi. Of freshwater fish, the sheatfish and Aspius aspius have reached the verge of extinction. The natural population of the salmon has also reached a critical size.

Amphibians and reptiles
Amphibians are represented by 11 species in Estonia, with 4 of them — the common (brown) frog, the common toad and the spotted newt — being common. Rare and strictly protected species are the natterjack inhabiting West-Estonian coastal areas, the green natterjack found in South-Eastern Estonia and on Piirissaar Island, and the crested newt.

Of reptiles, three species of lizards — the common lizard, the sand lizard and the blindworm — and two species of snakes — the common viper and the water snake are found in Estonia.

Almost 15 000 species of insects and over 3500 species of other invertebrates have been recorded in Estonia. Many invertebrate species are associated with the Baltic Sea and still more with the numerous inland water bodies. Aquatic habitats are inhabited by various species of Flagellata, Infusoria, Spongiae, Scyphozoa, Turbellaria, Polychaeta, Priapuloidea, Nemertini, Gastrotricha, Hirudinea, Bivalvia and Bryozoa.

Of terrestrial invertebrates, numerous species of Nematoda, Oligochaeta and Acarina are abundant in the soil, while insects dominate all terrestrial habitats. The most abundant taxa of insects are Diptera, Hymenoptera, Coleoptera, Lepidoptera and Rhynchota.

Due to a good representation of several habitat types that have been largely destroyed in Western Europe (meadows, raised bogs and natural forests), Estonia still hosts a considerable number of insect species which have been listed as particularly endangered species under the Bern Convention on the Protection of European Wildlife.

Details about this article