The only permanent Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo) territory in Helsinki is on Vallisaari island. The local eagle owl pair stays in their territory, which also includes the nearby islands, all year round. The tuft-headed owl can be seen in an ash tree at Aleksanterinpatteri in the middle of the day, observing people with eyes ablaze.
The Eurasian eagle owl is Finland’s largest owl. It prays on everything from barnacle geese to rats. Eagle owls are the reason why you don’t see any waterfowl on the islets near Vallisaari island. They build their nests on rocky bluffs that provide a good view of the surrounding landscape and are out of reach for foxes and badgers. Eagle owls are known to have also nested on the earthworks of Vallisaari’s fortifications. In 2016, a pair of Eurasian eagle owls nested in Suomenlinna. Eagle owl chicks need plenty of safe terrain to move around in, as they venture out of the nest before learning to fly.
In the early 2000s, an urban Eurasian eagle owl was often heard hooting in Helsinki’s church towers. In 2011, a pair of eagle owls nested successfully on the roof of shopping centre Forum, right in the centre of Helsinki. The problems began when the nearly flightless chicks started getting into some difficult situations in the middle of the city’s streets. The owl chicks were carried back to their rooftop nest several times until they learned to fly properly.
An Eurasian eagle owl chick in Forum, photo Antti Koli.