Matsalu Bay

Site description (2000 baseline):

Site location and context
A large wetland complex in western Estonia comprising shallow sea bays with many small islets, the Kasari delta, saltmarshes, extensive reedbeds, and coastal and flood-plain meadows. Fisheries, agriculture and forestry are major human uses of the area.

Key biodiversity
Matsalu Nature Protection Area is the most important bird area in Estonia, supporting very large numbers of migrating and/or breeding waterbirds, primarily wildfowl and especially seaduck. The site holds more than 20,000 waterbirds on a regular basis. Breeding species of global conservation concern that do not meet IBA criteria: Haliaeetus albicilla (3 pairs), Gallinago media (3 pairs). Significant proportion (³1%) of national population breeding at site: Chlidonias niger (min. 150 pairs), Bubo bubo (6 pairs). More than 60,000 divers Gavia (G. stellata/ G. arctica) fly through the area on spring migration (number of staging birds is unknown). The avifauna is very diverse, with 260 species recorded, including 170 breeding species.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The main threats come from tourism, intensive fishing, and the overgrowth of coastal and flood-plain meadows with reed Phragmites and scrub as a result of undergrazing or lack of mowing. The wetland is also affected by effluent pollution from surrounding farms. There is a management plan for the Nature Protection Area. Matsalu bay is very important for nature-conservation research, and is the centre for bird-ringing in Estonia.

Protected areas
National High International High48,600 ha of IBA covered by Nature Protection Area (Matsalu, 48,600 ha). 48,600 ha of IBA covered by Ramsar Site (Matsalu, 48,600 ha).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Matsalu Bay. Downloaded from on 24/02/2024.