For many, birds are an essential part of Helsinki’s maritime cityscape. Watching our feathered friends is a fun activity, but the coexistence of people and birds sometimes has its problems. On this page, you can find useful information about urban birds.

On this page

A seagull exploring the Jätkäsaari district. Photo: Yiping Feng ja Ling Ouyang
A seagull exploring the Jätkäsaari district. Photo: Yiping Feng ja Ling Ouyang

Are you allowed to feed the birds?

Feeding birds is allowed in areas where it is not specifically forbidden, as long as the feeding does not cause undue harm. Birds benefit from feeding in the winter when they need additional nutrition the most. Summertime feeding is not necessary for the birds’ survival. Since birds naturally shy away from people, you should consider carefully if feeding them is necessary.

The City, private landowners and housing companies have the right to ban bird feeding in their areas. The bans are required when birds become familiar with people and may cause harm.

The City has decided to ban feeding birds in ten areas:

  • Esplanadi Park
  • Hakaniemi Market Square
  • Hietalahti Market Square
  • Kansalaistori Square
  • Market Square
  • Narinkkatori Square
  • Railway Square
  • Tallinn Square
  • Töölöntori Market Square
  • Ylä-Malmi Market Square

Why are the seagulls and crows in the city so aggressive?

Crows and seagulls defend their young by making loud calls and fake attacks. Often, these feints turn into actual attacks, meaning that the bird actually touches a person.

Seagulls will usually only swipe people with a wing or leg, but crows may strike people’s heads with their beaks, causing wounds. If this happens, you should clean the wound thoroughly and make sure that your tetanus vaccination is in order.

Mother birds are most likely to attack when their flightless chicks are moving about on the ground. For crows, this stage of development only lasts for a few days, but for seagulls, it can take several weeks. However, the chicks will usually move to more peaceful areas on their own.

How should I respond to aggressive birds?

If you encounter a seagull or crow chick along a route, you should take certain precautions. You can deduce the presence of chicks from the swooping of mother birds, even if you cannot see the chicks themselves.

A simple hat will protect against head wounds caused by possible bird attacks. Raising your hand above your head prevents birds from swooping near your head. Raising up a broomstick, umbrella or another long object gives even better protection. In especially difficult cases, moving the chicks may be an option.

According to the Nature Conservation Act and the Hunting Act, protected animals must not be disturbed, but according to the Nature Conservation Act, every effort must be made to help a wild animal that is in a helpless state. In urban environments, a prolonged defence situation is naturally stressful to both the birds and humans.

If the decision is made to move the chicks, the move should be carried out by a person who is experienced in handling birds. The principal rule is that chicks should not be disturbed or touched.

How can I stop seagulls from building nests in buildings?

Seagulls are protected during their nesting season, which is why prevention measures are taken in the autumn. On the sloped roofs of old stone buildings, seagulls will look for flat corners for nesting. You can set up metal nets or metal rods in such spots.

The structures must not be sharp or cause birds to get stuck. 

It is recommended that housing companies ban bird feeding in their property, and food waste should be handled with care.

What bird species are there in Helsinki?

There are several different bird species in Helsinki, as its diverse environments suit birds well.

More than 150 bird species nest in the city, and wintering and migratory species are also encountered. Many of the nesting bird species are threatened or near-threatened. They are especially numerous in the areas of Vanhankaupunginlahti–Viikki, Kallahdenniemi–Rastila and Mustavuori.