How the Bear Lost His Tail

Facts on the animals and the plants seen in the story

Wolverine (Gulo gulo)

Weight 10-25 kg, length 70-90 cm, häntä 15-25 cm

The wolverine is a member of the Mustelidae family (the weasels), a rather big bear-like animal with a bushy tail. The fur on its back and legs is almost black, but its brows, cheeks and flanks are of a lighter color. Its paws are big and broad.

In Finland, wolverines can only be found in the northern mountainous regions.

Wolverines are omnivores. In summer, they eat small prey, birds and berries. In winter, they mostly hunt reindeer and feed on carrion.

The female wolverine gives birth to 2-3 babies (lads) in a winter den dug into the snow where the babies stay until May. The babies stay with their mother for about a year.

Wolverines can live up to 15 years.

The wolverine is a highly endangered species and fully protected by law. A little more than a hundred wolverines live in Finland presently.

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Elk (Alces alces)

Weight 240-450 kg (female) ja 240-600 kg (male), body length 2-3 m, tail 7-10 cm

The elk is Finland’s biggest mammal. It is blackish brown year round, but the coloring in the legs is lighter. Its noose is long, its upper lip slightly drooping and it has a skin fold, a “chin beard” in the lower jaw. The male elk (bull) has a handsome set of antlers, which it sheds every winter. The female elk (cow) is hornless.

Elks are found throughout Finland. In summer they like to stay in young, leaf-tree forests, swamps and damp places. In winter they range to heaths where pines and birches grow.

In summer, elks eat, for example, birch and fireweed, and sprouts and matured crops from the fields. In autumn, its favorite treats are blueberry and other twigs. In winter, elks feed on aspen, birch and pine buds and sprouts, and can thus cause considerable damage to pine sapling stands.

The cow gives birth to 1-2 reddish brown, soft-furred fawns in the spring. The fawns can walk when they are only a few hours old. The cow nurses the fawn all summer, and by the end of the summer the fawn has already reached a weight of 100 kg. The fawns follow their mothers around for their first year.

Elks can live up to 15-20 years.

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Lynx (Lynx lynx)

Weight 10-30 kg, body length 80-110 cm, tail 15-25 cm

The lynx is Finland’s only wild feline. Its distinctive features are yellowish fur, tuffs in the ears and a beard-like ruff. The male is bigger than the female.

Although sightings of lynxes are rare, they can be found almost everywhere in Finland. They especially like to live in uninhabited forest areas.

The lynx is primarily a nocturnal animal, a good swimmer and climber. Lynxes are predators that hunt by stalking and creeping. They feed on, for example, hares, small rodents, birds, foxes and reindeer, sometimes also on deer, elk fawns and domestic animals.

The female lynx gives birth in May-June to 2-3 blind and fluffy cubs in a rock crevasse or a thicket. The cubs are dependent on their mother for their first year, but after that they learn to hunt and survive on their own.

Lynxes can live up to 14-17 years.

In the early 20th century the lynx was almost driven to extinction in Finland. It became protected by law in the 1970s and presently, around a thousand lynxes live in Finland.

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Bear (Ursus arctos)

Weight 100-300 kg, body length 170-220 cm, tail 8-10 cm

Bears are big and stocky land beasts. The males are considerably bigger than the females. The coloring of the Finnish brown bear varies from tan to dark brown. The cubs often have a white “collar” around their neck.

Bears live in wild forests in most parts of Finland. They are most commonly found in the big northern forests.

Bears are mostly herbivores, feeding on grasses and berries, but they also eat insects, for example, ants. Bears also feed on carrion and occasionally even hunt elk or reindeer.

In autumn, bears eat huge amounts of berries, storing food for the winter. From November to March bears go into light hibernation, but may wake up if they are disturbed or if the weather warms up.

In January-February, the female bear gives birth to cubs. The new-born cubs weigh only 200-300 grams and are hairless and blind. They spend the first months of their lives looked after by their mother in the den, until they and their mother crawl out of the den in the summer. The cubs usually follow around their mother until their second summer.

Bears can live up to 30-35 years.

The bear is Finland’s national animal. About a thousand bears live in Finland today.

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Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Weight 4-10 kg, body length 60-90 cm, tail 35-50 cm

The fox is a reddish brown canine. Its neck, belly and tip of tail are white.

The fox is the most common wild beast of prey in Europe. In Finland, too, foxes can be found throughout the country. They mostly like to live in forests.

Foxes are nocturnal animals, which means they move around and hunt at night. Foxes are omnivores, they feed on small animals, birds, carrion and waste. In early summer, foxes also prey on the young of other predators and in winter they may even attack the weaker adult beasts.

The fox can make a den in an old badger’s den or dig a den of its own. The female fox gives birth to 3-6 blind babies in May-June. While the mother is still nursing, the male fox fetches food for the mother and the cubs. The cubs spend the summer close to the den, but in autumn they are ready to survive on their own.

Foxes can live up to 12 years.

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Ermine (Mustela erminea)

Weight 150-300 kg, body length 18-32 cm, tail 9-14 cm

The ermine is a member of the Mustiledae family, with a longish body and a black tip of the tail. Its fur is otherwise brown in the summer and white in the winter.

Ermines can be found throughout Finland in a variety of habitats.

Ermines are skilled climbers and swimmers. They mostly eat moles, mice and rats, but sometimes also prey on birds and feed on bird eggs and carrion. Ermines collect stores for the winter.

The female ermine gives birth in April-May to 3-8 babies in a den. After the babies a weaned, the mother brings them food to the den.

Ermines can live up to 5-7 years.

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Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)

Weight 22-45 g, body length 9-13 cm, tail 10-13 cm

The wood mouse is a rodent with large ears, big and bright eyes and a nose that is longer compared to the common house mouse. Its has a reddish brown back and a white belly.

Wood mice are found in southern and central Finland. They live in forests, fields and gardens and are unafraid of humans. Wood mice are good swimmers and climbers.

The wood mouse is a twilight or nocturnal animal. Its favorite foods are seeds, berries and other plant parts and it collects food for the winter.

The female wood mouse gives birth 2-3 times a year to 3-7 babies in a nest it has made underground out of leaves and grasses. The wood mouse can also give birth above ground, even in a bird box or a tree hole.

Wood mice can survive in nature up to 2-3 years.

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Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)

Weight 2-6 kg, body length 50-65 cm, tail 4-8 cm

The mountain hare’s coloring is well suited for snowy climates, its fur is grayish brown in the summer and white in the winter. The tips of its ears are always black and its tail is always white. Its hind feet are broad and hairy, well adopted to moving in the snow.

The mountain hare is commonly found throughout Finland and, as opposed to its English name, it prefers to live in forests.

In summer, mountain hares eat grass and hay, in autumn especially blueberry plants and in winter, as the snow packs up, bark and branches from trees and bushes.

Mountain hares give birth to 2-5 babies 2-3 times a year. In Finnish, the babies that are born in spring are called “snow babies”, the ones born in summer “leaf babies” and the ones in autumn “stubble babies”. The mountain hare does not build a nest, its babies are born in the shelter of tall-growing vegetation. They can see as soon as they are born and are soon after able to follow their mother around.

Mountain hares live up to 8-10 years.

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Badger (Meles meles)

Weight in summer 6-13 kg and in autumn 15-20 kg, body length 60-90 cm, tail 12-24 cm

The badger is a stocky animal with short legs. It is a member of the Mustiledae family. It can be recognized by its black and white-striped head and grayish fur.

Badgers are found in southern and central Finland. They like to live in broadleaf and mixed forests near cultivated land. Badgers live in families.

Badgers are twilight or nocturnal animals. They feed on insects, small animals, berries, mushrooms and plants, but are also known to sometimes eat carrion.

When the weather turns cold and snow falls, the badger retreats into its den to hibernate. There are many caves and tunnels in the den.

Towards the end of hibernation, in March-April, female badgers give birth to 1-3 helpless babies in the den. The babies stay with their mother until the following autumn.

Badgers can live up to 10-15 years.

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Ringed seal (Pusa hispida)

Weight 40-130 kg, length max 120-150 cm

The ringed seal is a small species of seals, which originally lived in the Polar Sea. Its body is long and sleek, and it swims with its fin-like limbs. Ringed seals can stay submerged under water for up to 20 minutes, where their ears and nostrils shut down. Their skin is covered with a thick coat and it has a thick layer of fat underneath it. The ringed seal can be distinguished from other species of seals by its dark coat with lighter, ringed patterns.

In Finland, ringed seals can be found in the Baltic Sea and Lake Saimaa. The Baltic ringed seal (Pusa hispida botnica) lives farther out in the sea by solid ice. The Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) always nests in the same area. In spring, it climbs out of the water to rest on the ice and when the ice has broken up, it moves up to lakeside cliffs.

Ringed seals mainly eat fish.

In mid-spring, the female ringed seal gives birth to one baby seal, usually in a snow cavern on the ice. The female Baltic ringed seal nurses its young for 4-6 weeks, the Saimaa ringed seal for 6-9 weeks. When the baby has built enough fat under its skin and its soft baby down has turned into a waterproof coat, the baby can slip into the water and start to learn to swim. When the ice has broken, the young ringed seals begin to survive on their own.

Ringed seals can live up to 35-40 years.

Ringed seals are a highly endangered species and protected by law. Presently, some 250 ringed seals live in Lake Saimaa.

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Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris

Weight 230-450 g, body length 20-25 cm, tail 15-20 cm.

The squirrel is a rodent that can easily be recognized by its long, bushy tail. Its belly is white but its fur is otherwise reddish brown in the summer and grayish brown in the winter.

Squirrels can be found in Finland throughout the country. Their original habitat is coniferous forests, but today they also commonly live in parks and gardens.

Squirrels are diurnal animals. They are very good at swimming, climbing and leaping from tree to tree. Squirrels prefer to eat spruce and pine seeds, but they also feed on buds, berries, mushrooms, insects and bird eggs and baby birds. In autumn they dig food stores into the ground or in tree holes.

Squirrels build their nests out of branches, leaves and moss or they nest in tree holes or bird boxes. Squirrels have 1-2 litters a summer. The litter usually consists of 5 babies. The babies are born blind, hairless and helpless, but soon develop into skilled climbers.

Squirrels can live up to 8-12 years.

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Rat (Rattus norvegicus)

Weight 250-500 g, body length 22-26 cm, tail 18-22 cm

The rat is a rodent with a long tail and a long, tapering nose. It is of a dark gray color, but its feet are slightly red.

Rats are found throughout Finland, and they live wherever there are humans. They commonly inhabit outhouses, storage sites, dump areas and, in cities, sewers. In summer, rats may move to lush and damp areas in nature.

Rats are omnivores. They will eat just about anything from foodstuffs and kitchen waste to saplings and bird eggs and baby birds in the wild.

A female rat can give birth to as many as 6 litters a year. Each litter consists of 6-12 blind, hairless and helpless baby rats.

Rats can live up to 3-4 years.

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European Hare (Lupus europaeus)

Weight 2-7 kg, body length 40-70 cm, tail 7-11 cm

The European hare, like other hares and rabbits, is a member of the lagomorph family. Its fur is yellowish brown year round. In winter, the fur grows longer and lighter but it never turns white. The tail of the European hare is always black on top and white underneath. Its hind feet are narrow, so it sinks deeper into the snow than the mountain hare. The European hare also has longer ears than the mountain hare.

European hares live in southern and central Finland. They are commonly found in low country and small woods, and are often also seen in cities and other population centers.

In summer, European hares eat grasses, hay and other plants. In winter, they dig tender crops from underneath the snow and eat bark from garden trees and bushes. If nothing better is available, the European hare will eat forest tree branches, preferably willow and birch.

The European hare gives birth to 3-4 litters a year in the shelter of tall-growing vegetation. The litter consists of 2-4 babies who can see when they are born.

The European hare can live up to 8-10 years.

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Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)

Weight 500-1900 g, body length 20-30 cm, tail 2-5 cm

The hedgehog is a grayish brown mammal with a black snout. Its back is covered with spines. At rest, the spines point backwards but when in danger, the hedgehog rolls itself up into a spiny ball.

Hedgehogs can be found in southern and central Finland. They live in fields, forest edges and gardens, most commonly in tall, thick grass, bushes and thickets.

Hedgehogs eat ants, snails and worms, but they may also feed on frogs and other bigger catch.

In autumn, hedgehogs build themselves a nest of hay and leaves underneath bushes or outhouses. They spend the winter there in deep hibernation. During hibernation, they do not drink or eat and their body temperature sinks to four degrees centigrade at the lowest.

In June-July, the female hedgehog gives birth to 3-7 blind babies with small, soft spines. The babies develop fast, some of them may even have a litter of their own in the summer of the same year.

Hedgehogs usually live up to 4 years.

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Wolf (Canis lupus)

Weight 30-75 kg, body length 100-160 cm, tail 30-50 cm

The wolf is a grayish mottled canine. Its back is dark and its belly is of a lighter color. Its tail is straight and droopy.

In Finland, wolves are mostly found in the fjelds and forests. Wolves live and hunt in packs. They move around a lot, a hunting pack of wolves can travel tens of kilometers in a day.

In summer, wolves eat mostly small mammals, birds, carrion and herbaceous food. In winter, they feed on elks, deer and reindeer.

In April-May, the female wolf gives birth to 3-4 blind cubs in a den. Both parents look after the cubs.

Wolves can live up to 12-16 years.

In the 19th century, wolves were still common animals in the forests Finland. Wolves were however hated and persecuted because they also attacked domestic animals, and they were wiped out almost to the point of extinction. The wolf is now a highly endangered species and protected by law. A little more than a hundred wolves live in Finland today.

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Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris)

Weight 80-180 g, body length 12-20 cm, tail 7-11 cm

The water vole is a big, dark brown rodent with a long tail.

Water voles are found throughout Finland. In summer, they like to live on lush water banks, in winter on dry land, even relatively far from water.

In summer, water voles eat horsetails, reeds and sedges. For the winter, they store, for example, potatoes, carrots and flower bulbs. When they run out of stores, they start to gnaw on tree roots.

The female water vole gives birth to 4-5 litters a summer in a nest it has built on a water bank. The litter consists of 2-9 babies. The babies leave the nest before reaching adulthood.

Water voles can live up to 2 years.

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Magpie (Pica pica)

Length 44-46 cm, wingspread 50-60 cm, weight 180-270 g

The magpie is a medium-sized member of the Corvid or crow family. It has a round body, but its tail is very long. Its belly is white but it is black otherwise. Its wings have a metallic luster. Magpies are timid and suspicious by nature.

Magpies are found throughout Finland. They are common birds around farmlands.

Magpies are omnivores. They eat invertebrates and small vertebrates, bird eggs, seeds, grains and waste.

Magpies live in families. They make round, ball-like nests out of twigs, where the female magpie lays 5-8 eggs, which it broods for 3 weeks.

Magpies are resident birds, which means they winter in Finland.

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Parrot Crossbill (Loxia pytyopsittacus)

Length 17-18 cm, wingspread 30-33 cm, weight 48-61 g

The parrot crossbill is a stocky bird with a thick neck and a strong beak. The males are red and the females grayish green. Parrot crossbills are fearless by nature and they travel in small flocks.

Parrot crossbills are found throughout Finland, except for the northern Lapland fjelds. They chiefly live in pine forests.

Parrot crossbills eat mainly pine seeds, but if none are available, also spruce seeds.

The parrot crossbill makes its nest out of twigs, moss and lichen in a pine tree. The female lays 3-5 eggs, which it broods for 2 weeks.

The parrot crossbill migrates according to the pine cone yield. On a bad pine cone year it can migrate in small flocks all the way to western Europe.

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Common gull (Larus canus)

Length 40-42 cm, wingspread 110-130 cm, weight 300-480 g

The common gull is a medium-sized coastal bird with long and narrow wings, but short legs and a short beak. The common gull is light gray on top with a white underside.

Common gulls are widely observed everywhere in the Finnish coastal regions.

Common gulls are omnivores. They eat insects, worms, fish and other small animals, but also plant parts, seeds and waste.

Common gulls breed in pairs or in colonies. They make a nest out of hay and twigs on islets or rocks. The female lays 3 eggs, which it broods for about a month.

Common gulls winter in the southern parts of the Baltic Sea and the shores of the North Sea, some of them stay in southwestern Finland.

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Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Length 55-60 cm, wingspread 146-173 cm, weight 1,2-1,4 kg

The osprey is a medium-sized bird of prey. It has a big head, a curved beak and sharp claws. It is dark brown on top with a white underside, its head is black and white.

Ospreys are found throughout Finland. They are common birds in lush coastal areas.

Ospreys mostly eat fish, but also frogs and other small animals.

Ospreys make their nest at the top of the tallest pine in a swamp or forest. The female lays 2-3 eggs, which it broods for 5-6 weeks.

Ospreys winter in the central and southern parts of Africa.

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Raven (Corvus corax)

Length 62-66 cm, wingspread 120-150 cm, weight 800-1500 g

The raven is a large member of the crow family. It is heavy-set and longish, and it has a big head and sturdy beak. Ravens are shiny black all over. By nature, they are timid and suspicious, but also watchful and inventive.

Ravens are found throughout Finland. They are commonly observed in forest regions and the northern fjelds.

Ravens are omnivores. They eat carrion and waste, bird eggs and young, small animals and grains and other herbaceous food.

Ravens are loyal to their mates and breeding grounds. They make a nest out of twigs on a treetop or a cliff. The female lays 3-6 eggs, which it broods for 3 weeks. The family usually stays together until the next winter.

Ravens are resident birds, which means they winter in Finland.

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Black-Throated Diver (Gavia arctica)

Length 58-73 cm, wingspread 110-130 cm, weight 2,0-3,4 kg

The black-throated diver is a large water bird. It has a longish body and a thick neck. Its head is gray, its throat is black, its neck is striped and it has black spots on the back. It is timid but curious by nature.

Black-throated divers are found throughout Finland, especially on barren shores.

Black-throated divers feed on roaches, perches, vendace and other small fish. They can stay submerged underwater up to several minutes.

Black-throated divers make their nest by the water on sheltered shores. The female lays 2 eggs, which it broods for about a month.

The black-throated diver winters in the Mediterranean and by the Black Sea.

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Crane (Grus grus)

Length 110-120 cm, wingspread 220-245 cm, weight 4,5-7,0 kg

The crane is a large bird with a long neck and long legs and it lives in damp areas and near farmlands. It has a black and white head, but is light gray otherwise. Its tail is short and frilly. By nature, it is timid and suspicious.

Cranes are found throughout Finland. They especially like to live in wet, open swamps and on damp shores, but can also be found feeding in peaceful forest and swampy fields.

Cranes eat, for example, frogs, lizards, plant sprouts and roots, berries, tender crops and grains.

Cranes are loyal to their mates and breeding grounds. They make a nest out of hay in watery swamps or other damp areas. The female lays 2 eggs, which it broods for about a month. The mother looks after the babies until they learn to fly at the age of 9-10 weeks. The babies migrate and spend the winter with their mother.

Cranes migrate in loudly honking wedges. The cranes of western Finland winter mostly in Spain, the cranes of eastern Finland in Tunisia and Egypt.

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Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)

Length 145-160 cm, wingspread 218-243 cm, weight 8,5-11 kg

The whooper swan is a large, white water bird with a long neck. It can be distinguished from other swans by its yellow beak base, straight neck and tail that stays above water. By nature, it is watchful and cautious.

Whooper swans are found throughout Finland, especially on lush shores.

Whooper swans eat plant sprouts and seeds, the baby chicks eat small animals. When feeding, the swan sticks its neck underwater.

The whooper swan is loyal to its mate and breeding grounds. It builds a nest out of water plants in the shelter of vegetation in water or on shore. The female lays 3-7 eggs into the nest, which it broods for 5-7 weeks. The babies stay with their mother through their first winter.

Whooper swans migrate in flocks in wedge or line formations. They winter in the southern parts of the Baltic Sea and in western Europe, some stay in the southwestern parts of Finland.

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Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola)

Length 33-35 cm, wingspread 56-60 cm, weight 200-420 g

The woodcock is a large wader with long legs and a long beak. It has a plump body and its coloring is mottled brown.

Woodcocks are found throughout Finland, except for northern Lapland. They especially like to live in lush forests.

Woodcocks eat worms, mollusks, insects and other small animals, in the autumn also berries and seeds.

Woodcocks make their nest in the ground. The female lays 4 eggs, which it broods for 3 weeks.

The woodcock winters in western Europe and the Mediterranean countries, in warm winters also on the Finnish Åland Islands.

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Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)

Length 33-34 cm, wingspread 67-74 cm, weight 180-260 g

The jackdaw is a medium-sized, well-proportioned crow bird. Its coloring is grayish black, its neck is light gray.

Jackdaws are found in southern and central Finland. They are especially common in population centers and around farmland. Jackdaws live in noisy flocks.

Jackdaws are omnivores. They mostly feed on grains, seeds, insects, worms and other small animals and on waste.

Jackdaws are loyal to their mates and breeding grounds. They make a nest out of twigs tree holes, cracks in buildings or in bird boxes. The female lays 4-6 eggs, which it broods for a few weeks.

Jackdaws winter in southern Sweden, Denmark and the Baltic countries, some stay in southern in Finland.

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Three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus)

Length 21-22 cm, wingspread 32-35 cm, weight 55-75 g

The three-toed woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker with a big head. It has a white patch on its black back and its belly is white. The top of the head is yellow in males and black in females.

Three-toed woodpeckers are found throughout Finland, although they are rather rare. They especially like to live in coniferous forests.

Three-toed woodpeckers eat beetles that live under spruce bark, ants and other insects and larvae.

The three-toed woodpecker usually makes a nest hole in spruces. The female lays 3-6 eggs, which it broods for 1-2 weeks.

The three-toed woodpecker is a resident bird, which means it winters in Finland.

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House Martin (Delichon urbica)

Length 13-14 cm, wingspread 26-29 cm, weight 15-23 g

The house martin is a member of the swallow family. Swallows are excellent flyers, with slim and narrow bodies and sharp-edged wings. The house martin has a shuttle-like body and its tail is short. It is black on top with a white underside. It is fearless by nature and it lives in flocks.

House martins are found throughout Finland. They especially like to live around farmhouses, barns and sheds.

House martins eat mosquitoes, flies, butterflies and other flying insects.

House martins build up a round nest out of mud, usually under the roof edge of a building. The female lays 3-5 eggs, which it broods for 2 weeks. House martins can have 2 broods in a summer.

The house martin winters in southern parts of Africa.

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Long-eared owl (Asio otus)

Length 35-37 cm, wingspread 90-100 cm, weight 220-370 g

Owls are birds of prey that hunt birds and other animals at night. The long-eared owl is a medium-sized owl with long wings. It is black-striped on top with a yellowish underside. Its ear tufts are usually tucked against the head.

Long-eared owls are found in southern and central Finland, especially on the edges of open fields.

Long-eared owls eat moles, mice, shrews, and if these are not available, also small birds.

Long-eared owls make their nest in a crow’s or magpie’s old twig nest. The female lays 3-7 eggs, which it broods for a month.

The long-eared owl winters in western and central Europe.

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Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus)

Length 46-51 cm, wingspread 85-90 cm, weight 600-1000 g

The great crested grebe is a small or medium-sized water bird. It has a short body, a thin, long neck and several crests on the head. Its back is dark brown, its throat and belly are white.

The great crested grebe is a common bird in southern and central Finland, especially around lush shores.

Great crested grebes eat small fish, crustaceans and water larvae.

The great crested grebe makes a nest of water plants on a floating raft near the shore. The female lays 3-6 eggs in the nest, which it broods for a month.

The great crested grebe winters in western Europe and the Mediterranean.

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Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Length 51-62 cm, wingspread 81-98 cm, weight 900-1300 g

The mallard is a medium-sized water bird with webbed toes and a flat beak. The male is gray with a brown chest, a white ring around the neck and a bluish green head. The female is brown.

The mallard is a common bird throughout Finland, especially on lush shores.

Mallards eat seeds and sprouts of water plants, in summer, also insects and other small animals.

Mallards live in pairs from autumn to late spring. They make their nest on ground amidst vegetation, which they cover with hay and down. The female lays 8-12 eggs, which it broods for about a month.

Mallards winter in southern parts of Scandinavia and western Europe, some stay in southern Finland.

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Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

Length 42-50 cm, wingspread 65-80 cm, weight 650-1200 g

The goldeneye is a medium-sized, stocky water bird. It has a dark, tapering head. The male is otherwise black and white, and it has a white spot on the cheek. The female is gray with a white stripe on the sides.

Goldeneyes are commonly found throughout Finland.

Goldeneyes eat mollusks, worms, insects and other small water animals and their larvae, sometimes also seeds of water plants.

The goldeneye makes its nest into an old three-toed woodpecker’s nest or a bird box, which it lines with down. The female lays 7-11 eggs, which it broods for about a month. Some of the babies grow up to be independent of their mother sooner, others stay under her care through the summer.

Goldeneyes winter in southern parts of the Baltic Sea and in western Europe, some stay in the southeastern Finnish archipelago and by the ice-free waters inland.

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Ahven (Perca fluviatilis)

Length 12-30 cm, weight 100-500 g

The perch can be recognized by its greenish color and the dark cross-stripes on its sides. The front dorsal fin is spiny, and its ventral, anal and caudal fins are of a reddish color.

The perch is the most common fish in Finland, and it lives in all different types of waters. Perches are found in all coastal areas and inland waters, except for the mountainous northern Lapland. Perches are schooling fish.

Perches feed on a great variety of food, including insect larvae, crustaceans, worms and other fish.

Perches spawn in May-June. The fry hatch within 2-3 weeks from the spawning.

Perches live long, up to 20-25 years.

The perch is Finland’s national fish.

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Grayling (Thymallus thymallus)

Length 25-40 cm, weight 150-900 g

The most distinctive feature of the grayling is its notably big dorsal fin. Its sides are of a silver color and usually covered in dark spots. The scales run in straight lines and do not overlap, as they do in many other fish species.

Graylings are found in the waterways north of the Oulu River and in coastal areas by the northern parts of the Bothnian Sea and the Bothnian Bay. Graylings have also been planted in waterways in central Finland.

Graylings eat insects, benthic animals and small fish.

Graylings spawn in April-May and the fry hatch in about a month from the spawning.

Graylings usually live under 10 years.

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Pike (Esox lucius)

Length 40-80 cm, weight 0,8-3 kg

The Pike can be recognized by its long and straight body, big head and wide, sharp-toothed mouth. Its coloring is greenish and mottled yellow.

The perch is the second most common fish in Finland after the perch. It is commonly found throughout the country in all types of waters. The pike is a local resident fish, it spends its whole life in its native waters.

The pike is a predator: it eats other fish.

Pikes spawn as soon as the ice has broken up. The fry hatch within two weeks from the spawning.

Pikes live very long, sometimes over 30 years.

The pike is the symbolic fish of the Åland Islands.

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Finnish Lake Salmon (Salmon salar sebago)

Length 40-80 cm, weight 1-6 kg

The Finnish lake salmon is a subspecies of salmon that lives in Lake Saimaa. It nearly became extinct, but a sufficient amount of parent fish were rescued to accomplish successful planting. Lake salmon have been planted, apart from Lake Saimaa, also in, for example, the Finnish lakes Pielinen and Päijänne. 

The lake salmon’s body is slim and streamlined. It is of a shiny silver, spotted color. In spawning season, the male turns reddish and it develops a growth in the lower jaw that makes it rise upward like a hook.

Salmons are predatory fish, small salmons eat mostly insects and crustaceans, big salmons eat other fish.

Salmons are migratory fish. They are born in rivers, where they spend their first 2-4 years until they migrate into lakes. At the end of the summer, salmons rise to their native rivers to spawn. The spawning takes place in October-November. The fry hatch in the spring.

Many salmon die after spawning, although some may spawn 2-3 times. The oldest studied salmons have been approximately 10 year olds.

The lake salmon is the symbolic fish of the Finnish Province of Karelia.

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Bullhead (Cottus gobio)

Length 6-10 cm, weight 3-10 g

The bullhead is a small grounding with a big head. Its skin has no scales but it is partly covered with spikes. It is of a brownish mottled color.

Bullheads are found in all coastal areas and inland waters in Finland, except for northern Lapland. Bullheads have also been transplanted into the Utsjoki River.

Bullheads eat benthic animals and the spawn of other fish.

Bullheads spawn in April-June into nest holes. The fry hatch in a month from the spawning.

Bullheads live about 3 years.

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Blue Bream (Abramis ballerus)

Length 20-35 cm, weight 120-400 g

The blue bream is best recognized by its exceptionally long anal fin. Its body is flat. Its coloring is silvery gray and its fins are yellowish.

Blue breams are found in all the inland waters south of Lake Keitele, in coastal waters it is rare. It likes to live in fertile waters. Blue breams are schooling fish. 

Blue breams eat chiefly animal plankton.

Blue breams spawn at the end of May.

Blue breams develop slowly and long, living up to over 20 years.

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Roach (Rutilus rutilus)

Length 12-25 cm, weight 15-150 g

The roach’s scales are big and silvery. Its fins are reddish and its eyes are also red.

The roach is the third most common fish in Finland after the perch and the pike. It is found in all coastal areas and inland waters, except for Lapland. Roaches like to live in shallow, fertile waters. Roaches are schooling fish.

The roach eats different types of benthic animals, but also animal and plant plankton. It is also an important source of food itself for predatory fish.

Roaches spawn in May and the fry hatch within a few weeks.

Roaches live long, sometimes even over 25 years.

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Muut eläimet
Viper (Vipera berus)

Length 50-80 cm

The viper is Finland’s only poisonous snake, but it is rarely known to bite humans. It usually strikes in defense, when, for example, it has been stepped on.

Vipers can usually be recognized by a serrated pattern on their back. Some vipers are entirely black.

Vipers are commonly found throughout Finland, except for the northern mountainous regions. They live in varied habitats such as ruins, rocky slopes, light-filled forests and meadows.

Vipers eat small animals including moles, mice, frogs and lizards.

The female viper gives birth to 5-20 babies in late summer. The babies are born about 15-20 cm long and fully developed.

Vipers hibernate in the winter.

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Ringed snake (Natrix natrix)

Length 60-100 cm

Unlike the viper, the ringed snake is not poisonous.

Ringed snakes usually have yellow spots on their necks. Their coloring and patterning vary otherwise. Some ringed snakes are also entirely black and can thus be mistaken for vipers.

Ringed snakes are found in southern and central Finland. They especially like to live near shores and other damp environments.

Ringed snakes are good swimmers. They mostly eat frogs and toads.

The female ringed snake lays 10-40 eggs in late summer in a damp and warm place. Within 7-10 weeks, the babies are born 15-18 cm long.

Ringed snakes start to hibernate in the autumn.

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Toad (Bufo bufo)

Length 7-13 cm

The toad is bigger and clumsier that the frog, and it moves by crawling instead of leaping. Its skin is drier and more knobby than the frog’s and it exudes a foul-tasting poison. Its back is brown and underside white.

Toads are found throughout Finland, except for the northern mountainous areas.

Toads eat insects and other small animals, which they catch with their long, sticky tongues.

Toads hibernate in the winter. As soon as they wake up in the spring they start to breed. The female lays the eggs into water in long, slimy strings. The eggs develop into larvae, which in turn develop into small baby toads. When the babies crawl on ground they are 10-12 mm long.

Toads can live up to 30 years.

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Frog (Rana temporaria)

Length 8-10 cm

The frog is Finland’s most common amphibian. It has a stocky body and short legs. Its coloring varies and is often spotted.

Frogs are found throughout Finland, but most commonly in the southern and central parts of the country. Frogs live on land and in water.

Frogs eat insects, snails, worms and other small animals. They catch them with their long, sticky tongues or by snatching them directly into their mouths.

Frogs spend the winter hibernating, but wake up in the spring and gather by waters to mate. When the eggs have been laid, the frogs rise out of the water and spend the rest of the summer on dry land. The eggs develop into tadpoles that can swim with their little tails. The tails fall off eventually when the tadpoles evolve into frogs. When a baby frog crawls out of the water, it is 10-12 mm long.

Frogs can live up to 10 years.

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Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara)

Length 15-18 cm

The common lizard is a small, brownish mottled reptile. When in danger, it fools its predator by dropping its tail. A new tail grows in place of the old one in a few weeks’ time.

Lizards are found throughout Finland. They like to live in sunny, warm places on forest edges and in grass.

Lizards eat small animals such as insects and larvae.

The female lizard gives birth in the summer to 3-10 babies that are born a few centimeters long.

Lizards hibernate in the winter.

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Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

Wingspread 45-55 mm

The brimstone is one of the first butterflies to be observed in the spring. Its most distinctive feature is its yellow color. The male is bright yellow, the female clearly lighter and more greenish.

Brimstones are most commonly found in southern and central Finland, especially in warm, open places and light-filled forests.

Brimstones, like other butterflies feed by drawing nectar, resin and other liquids out of flowers with their long suckers. The brimstone’s larvae (caterpillars) live on buckthorn.

Butterflies go through a full metamorphosis, which means that they develop from eggs through the larva and chrysalis stages into adult  butterflies. The female brimstone lays its eggs in June and an adult butterfly hatches from the aurelia in August-September. Brimstones winter as adults.

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Juniper (Juniperus communis)

The  juniper is an arborescent shrub. Its needles are sharp and stingy, bluish green on top and dark green underneath. The bark of the juniper flakes easily. The tree’s flowerage turns into bluish juniper berries. Junipers flower in May-June.

Junipers are commonly found throughout Finland, especially in light-filled habitats. Depending on their growing habitats, they can grow as creeping or upright shrubs or even as small trees.
Junipers grow slowly and they are very long-lived. Junipers that are as old as 500 years have been found in Lapland.

Juniper berries are used as seasoning and for medicinal purposes, with for example, stomach aches.

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The silver birch (Betula pendula) is the most handsome birch species to be found in Finland. The bark on the trunk is white but it turns, as the tree grows older, into blackish gray and becomes flaky. The branches are long and hanging. The silver birch is also known as the weeping birch. The young branches are smooth, shiny and full of small knobs. The leaves are shiny and double-serrated (with big and small notches) and triangular and tapering in shape.

The silver birch is found throughout Finland, but most commonly in the southern parts of the country. It

The downy birch  (Betula pubescens) is a more modest looking tree compared to the silver birch. Its trunk is smoother and whiter than that of the silver birch. Its branches are stiff and, when young, covered in soft down and have no knobs. The leaves are single-serrated (only small notches) and smaller than those of the silver birch.  

The downy birch is common throughout Finland and is especially found in young forests, ditched swamps and swamp edges.

Tea can be made of birch leaves, which are rich in Vitamin C, and juice and syrup is made of the sap.

The Birch is Finland's National tree.

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Spruce (Picea abies)

The spruce is an evergreen coniferous tree. The bark on its trunk is dark gray. The needles are approximately 2 cm long and grow separately. The flowers are red but they turn brown as they develop into cones. The spruce flowers in May-June.

Spruces are common throughout Finland, except for northern Lapland. They like to grow in sandy heaths and fertile grounds. In southern Finland spruces usually grow to be up to 25-30 meters tall. Not until they reach an age of 60-100 years are they ready to be felled.

Turpentine can be made of spruce resin and cough medicine out of the tree’s tender new growth.

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Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

The Scots pine is a an evergreen coniferous tree. The bark on its trunk is reddish brown higher up and dark brown closer to the base of the tree. The needles are approximately 8-15 cm long and they grow in pairs. The cones are green in their first year and then turn brown. The Scots pine flowers in May-June.

Scots pines are common throughout Finland, except for the Lapland fjelds. They especially like to grow in sandy heaths and on rocky terrain. Scots pines can grow to be over 35 meters tall. In Lapland, they can live over 800 years.

In hard times, bread was made out of pine bark. The coniferous oil from its needles is used, for example, in soaps.

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Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

The trunk of the rowan is smooth and light brown. Its leaves are pinnate, long and short-stalked. The rowan flowers in June-July as soon as the leaves have come out. The flowers are white and strongly scented. The clustered, red berries are red and edible, though sour.

The rowan is common throughout Finland. It likes to grow on nutrient-rich rocks, yards and parks. In barren terrain it grows into a bush-like tree, but on fertile land it can reach a height of over 10 meters.

The rowan was the sacred tree of ancient Finns.

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Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)

The lingonberry is an evergreen, low-creeping  bush. Its leaves are oval, smooth-edged, thick, hard, shiny and dark green. It flowers in June-July. The flowers are bell-shaped and white or pink. The berries are red and taste tangy.

The lingonberry is common throughout Finland and is especially found in dry, light-filled heath forests, rocks, mountain heaths, pine swamps and woodlands.

The lingonberry is the most widely picked wild berry in Finland.

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Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

The blueberry is a low-creeping bush that sheds its leaves for the winter. Its leaves are oval, slightly serrated, thin and light green. The blueberry flowers in May-June. Its flowers are ball-shaped and greenish, turning reddish as they grow older. The berries are blackish blue and have a waxy skin.

The blueberry is common throughout Finland and is especially found in fresh habitats, fresh heaths and mountain heaths.

The blueberry is a traditional medicinal plant. The fresh berries are good for the digestive system and blueberry juice is used to alleviate infections and fever.

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Halonen Eeva, Järvenpää Leena, Rautavaara Arno (toim.) (2003): Terve teille lintuset! Lasten Parhaat Kirjat, Helsinki.

Heinonen Reija-Tuulia, Suominen-Vihonen Sirkka (toim.) (1995): Kasvikirja: tunnista 200 suomalaista kasvia. Weilin+Göös, Helsinki.

Helgestad Asgeir (suom. Syvänperä Tuula) (2002): Metsän eläimiä. Karisto, Hämeenlinna.

Jansson Hasse (suom. Kalliola Iiris) (2002): Nisäkkäät tutuksi. Otava, Helsinki.

Klinting Lars (suom. Sevelius Ilona) (1994): Ensimmäinen eläinoppaani. Tammi, Helsinki.

Koli Lauri (1995): Suomen kalaopas. WSOY, Porvoo.

Koskimies Pertti (2005): Suomen lintuopas. WSOY, Helsinki.

Laine Lasse J. (2000): Suomen luonto-opas. WSOY, Helsinki.

Lappalainen Annikki, Suominen-Vihonen Sirkka, Vaajakallio, Ulla (1995): Nisäkäskirja: suomalaisia nisäkkäitä. Weilin+Göös, Espoo.

Lehtonen Hannu, Kokko Ulla, Rinne Veikko (2001): Suomen kalat ja kalastus CD-Fakta. WSOY, Helsinki.

Lokki Juhani, Koskimies Pertti.. (et al.) (2001): Suomen linnut 2 CD-Fakta. WSOY, Helsinki.

Hallanaro Eeva-Liisa.. (et al.) (2000): Suomen luonto CD-Fakta: kertomus ympäristön tilasta. WSOY, Helsinki.

Further English-language information on nature in Finland can be found, for example, on the websites:


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