a preserve in the western part of Estonian SSR, along the lower course of the Kasari River, on the coastal strip of the Matsalu gulf of the Baltic Sea and the 50 islands in the Moonsund Strait. Area, 13,500 hectares (1973). It was founded in 1957 on the site of a bird sanctuary and a hunting science training and experimental farm. Its aim is the protection of the region’s physical features and its various species of birds (about 250 species, including more than 160 nesting species).
Ornithological research has been conducted at what is now the Matsalu Preserve since 1870. Particularly numerous are aquatic and marsh birds. Transient birds in the preserve include flocks of whooper swans, northern ducks (Anaspenelope), and sandpipers. Mute swans and greylags nest in the reeds, which also serve as the molting site of mallard drakes and pochards. Mallards and many species of sandpipers build their nests on the grassy meadows. Eiders, tufted ducks, sheldrakes, mergansers, scoters, seagulls, and terns nest on the islands.