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There are over 300 different bird species in Germany and many of them have large, stable populations. Many of the most common species can be found in a wide variety of habitats. How to identify native birds.

In a nutshell

  • Populations of native birds reduced by viral diseases
  • Birds can often be easily observed and identified at bird feeders
  • many species evolved or are evolving into progenitors
  • facilitates survival
  • but cultural successors such as house sparrows or city pigeons are increasingly perceived as a nuisance, as their populations are constantly increasing

Domestic birds from A to E

Blackbird (Turdus merula)

  • Size: 23 to 29 cm
  • Males: shiny black plumage, yellow beak
  • Females: brown plumage, light brown in the neck area, dark beak
  • Breeding season: late February to late August
  • Food: earthworms, snails, berries fruits
  • Habitats: forests, parks, gardens, settlements
  • Migration: overwinters in Germany, occasionally stocks in the north move south
  • Special features: since 2010 there have been increased cases of the Usutu virus in blackbirds, which has significantly reduced numbers
blackbird male

Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

  • Size: approx. 11 cm
  • Male: blue crown, bluish wing and tail feathers, yellow breast
  • Females: same coloring as males, only slightly lighter
  • Breeding season: April to June
  • Food: insects, larvae, spiders, seeds, apples, berries
  • Habitats: Deciduous and mixed forests, parks, gardens
  • Migration behavior: overwinters in Germany
Due to their low weight, blue tits can move upside down on thin branches.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

  • Size: 14 to 16 cm
  • Males: back and breast rusty red, crown and nape blue-grey, rump grey-green, white tail edges and wing bars
  • Females: grey-brown with a slight green tinge, white wing bars
  • Breeding season: late March to June
  • Lining: beechnuts, seeds, berries, insects, spiders
  • Habitats: forests, gardens, parks, settlements, cultural landscapes
  • Migration: overwinters in Germany, stocks from northern areas occasionally migrate to more southern regions
  • Special features: chaffinches develop regional dialects in singing
Chaffinch male

Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

  • Size: 23 to 26 cm
  • Males: black and white wings, light belly, deep red undertail-coverts, red apex
  • Females: red apex spot absent
  • Breeding season: April to June
  • Food: Wood-dwelling insects and larvae, spruce and pine seeds, fruit, occasionally eggs and young birds
  • Habitats: deciduous and coniferous forests, copses, parks
  • Migratory behavior: resident birds that overwinter in Germany
  • Special features: great spotted woodpeckers prefer to look for places to empty cones, which are called woodpeckers
Male Great Spotted Woodpecker with characteristic red crest spot

Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

  • Size: 32 to 35 cm
  • Males: reddish brown to pink plumage, black and white wing markings, blue and black wing panel
  • Females: marked somewhat less conspicuously
  • Breeding season: late April to June
  • Food: Acorns, beechnuts, seeds, berries, fruit, nuts, insects, caterpillars, small animals, occasionally eggs and young birds
  • Habitats: light forests, gardens, parks
  • Migratory Behaviour: Resident birds, occasionally north-south stocks migrate
  • Particularities:
The presence of the jay can be detected by its conspicuous blue-black small feathers, which occasionally lie on the ground.

Magpie (Pica pica)

  • Size: 40 to 51 cm
  • Male: black and white plumage, conspicuously long tail, plumage occasionally shimmers bluish-green
  • Females: no differences in plumage
  • Breeding season: April to June
  • Food: earthworms, small vertebrates, bird eggs, seeds, berries, fruits
  • Habitats: open fields, short-grazed pastures, settlement areas
  • Migratory Behaviour: Resident birds, gather in larger roosts in winter
  • Peculiarities: Pairs of magpies stay together their entire lives

Notice: The bird was once said to steal small shiny metallic objects. However, research to date has not been able to confirm that magpies have a preference for such objects.

Domestic birds from G to J

Garden warbler (Sylvia borin)

  • Size: 13 to 14 cm
  • Males: olive-grey upperparts, slightly lighter underparts, sides of neck slightly blue-grey
  • Females: same plumage coloration as males
  • Breeding season: May to July
  • Lining: insects, spiders, berries fruits
  • Habitats: open areas full of bushes, forest edges, clearings, riparian forests, hedges, gardens, parks
  • Migration: overwinters in tropical regions of Africa
The garden warbler is one of the most common native birds, but is rarely seen due to its inconspicuous plumage.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

  • Size: 15.5 to 17 cm
  • Males: Compact strong build, pink underside, black cap, white rump, light wing bars
  • Females: Underside pale pink
  • Breeding season: May to July
  • Lining: buds, seeds, berries, fruits
  • Habitats: Coniferous and mixed forests, cemeteries, parks, gardens, shrub vegetation preferred
  • Migratory behavior: Males are sedentary, females and young birds occasionally migrate to more southern regions
  • Peculiarities: when looking for food, bullfinches usually travel in pairs or in family groups, which is why males and females can usually be observed together
bullfinch male

Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea)

  • Size: 80 to 105 cm
  • Males: Upper surface predominantly blue-grey, flight feathers and palms black, underside and head white, black elongated crest feathers, neck occasionally tinged with pink or black stippled
  • Females: no differences
  • Breeding season: March to June
  • Food: Fish, amphibians, occasionally mice, insects and earthworms
  • Habitats: bank areas with trees, swampy meadows
  • Migration behavior: remain mainly in Germany, but there are occasional migratory movements towards the south
The gray heron is the most common heron species in Central Europe.

Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)

  • Size: 14 to 16 cm
  • Male: Yellow-green breast and abdomen, moss green back, bright yellow feathers on primaries and tail feathers
  • Females: grey-green upperparts, brownish coat, generally less yellow feathers
  • Breeding season: April to June
  • Lining: seeds, buds, rose hips, fruits
  • Habitats: forest edges, ridges with hedges
  • Migration: sedentary, stocks from more northern regions occasionally migrate south in winter
  • Special features: population decline due to a virus infection
Greenfinch male

Notice: The so-called finch die-off, which mainly affects greenfinches, has been increasing for several years. Hygiene at the feeding points reduces the transmission of the virus, which is why bird feeders in particular should be disinfected regularly.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

  • Size: 14 to 16 cm
  • Males: Black and brown striped back, black throat and bib, gray crown and cheeks, brown head stripe
  • Females: rather inconspicuous grey-brown plumage
  • Breeding season: March to August
  • Lining: mainly seeds, flexible in the choice of food
  • Habitats: Settlement areas
  • Migration behavior: sedentary bird
  • Special features: House sparrows are descendants of cultures and have become one of the most common native bird species compared to the endangered tree sparrows
The house sparrow is also known as the "sparrow".

Hunting pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

  • Size: 55 to 90 cm
  • Male: copper-red plumage, black and beige spots, gray-black long tail feathers, head shimmering blue-green, white ring on neck, red warty skin flaps on head
  • Females: short tail feathers, black-beige plumage, belly a little lighter
  • Breeding season: April to May
  • Food: berries, shoots, seeds, leaves, fruits, invertebrates, small mammals, frogs
  • Habitats: semi-open meadows and fields with hedges, floodplains, wetlands, forest edges
  • Migration behavior: sedentary bird
  • Special features: the hunting pheasant used to be specifically bred for its tasty meat
pheasant male

Domestic birds from K to S

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

  • Size: 12 to 14.5 cm
  • Males: reddish-brown flanks, white face with black eye-stripe, orange underside, blue-grey upperside
  • Females: slightly lighter than males
  • Breeding season: April to May
  • Lining: insects, nuts, seeds
  • Habitats: Deciduous and mixed forests, parks, ridges, avenues, orchards, cemeteries
  • Migration behavior: sedentary bird
Also called "woodpecker tit," the nuthatch is a good climber that can run up and down logs or even walls.

Great tit (Parus major)

  • Size: 13.5 to 15 cm
  • Male: Glossy black head, white cheek feathers, bright yellow underparts with black longitudinal stripe, moss green upperparts, blue-grey wings with white band
  • Females: no differences
  • Breeding season: April to May
  • Food: insects, larvae, caterpillars, spiders, aphids, seeds
  • Habitats: Deciduous and mixed forests, parks, gardens
  • Migration: Resident bird, young birds occasionally overwinter in more southern regions
Great tits prefer breeding caves and occasionally a letter box is converted by them into a nesting place.

Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

  • Size: 32 to 36 cm
  • Male: gray plumage with rusty brown bands on top, only white underside with black transverse banding
  • Female: Chest brownish yellow
  • Breeding season: flexible breeding seasons due to brood parasitism
  • Food: Insects, earthworms, caterpillars, snails, spiders, females eat the eggs of the host parents
  • Habitats: Forests, semi-open landscapes with bushes, preferably near water
  • Migration: overwinters in tropical regions of Africa
  • Special features: acoustically clearly recognizable by its call
male cuckoo

Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis)

  • Size: 52 to 58 cm
  • Male: gray wings, black tail feathers, white head, long yellow legs, strong yellow bill, yellow iris with red lid ring
  • Females: no differences
  • Breeding season: April to June
  • Food: Insects, snails, fish, amphibians, small mammals up to the size of rats, seeds, fruits
  • Habitats: Inland lakes, rivers, ports, barrages
  • Migratory behavior: Resident bird, young birds occasionally have migratory behavior in all directions
Although only in Germany since 1987, the yellow-legged gull was able to establish itself quickly.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)

  • Size: 45 to 49 cm
  • Male: entirely black
  • Females: no differences
  • Breeding season: April to May
  • Lining: omnivores including carrion
  • Habitats: flexible, forests to settlement areas
  • Migration behavior: sedentary bird
Corvids often appear in colonies and are then very noisy.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

  • Size: 32 to 37 cm
  • Male: broad rounded wings, long tail, chest and neck rust red, upper surface slate gray
  • Females: lighter gray banded underparts
  • Breeding season: April to June
  • Food: small birds, occasionally small rodents
  • Habitats: forests with tall conifers, settlements, parks, gardens
  • Migration: Resident bird, young animals often overwinter in France or Spain
  • Special features: develops into a culture follower and is therefore more common in settlement areas
sparrowhawk male

City Pigeon (Columba livia f. domestica)

  • Size: 29 to 35 cm
  • Males: Various coloring with numerous plumage variations, often gray coloring with pink or green iridescent neck feathers
  • Females: no differences
  • Breeding season: March to August
  • Food: seeds, bread, fruit
  • Habitats: Cities
  • Migration behavior: sedentary bird
  • Particularities:
City pigeons form lifelong partnerships.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

  • Size: 50 to 60 cm
  • Male: gray ground color, white collar, dark brown breast, green shimmering head, yellow beak
  • Females: Orange-grey bill, beige-brown ground color, brown markings with blue mirror
  • Breeding season: March to July
  • Food: terrestrial and aquatic plants, seeds, berries, fruits, frogs, snails, spawn, worms, larvae, small fish
  • Habitats: lakes, ponds, rivers, coastal areas
  • Migration: Sedentary, birds in more northerly areas migrate south in frozen habitats
  • Special features: when choosing nesting sites, female mallards are creative and also use higher-lying, protected flower boxes
Mallard Females

frequently asked Questions

Why are female birds often less colourful?

The inconspicuousness of the female birds of many species ensures their survival. Due to the subtle colors, they are not noticed by females when breeding and are therefore safer from enemies.

Do young birds already eat nuts and seeds?

Parent animals usually feed young birds with insects, which they hunt exclusively for the offspring. Species that include seeds as a preferred food therefore benefit from year-round feeding because they have safe food sources to fall back on and only need to hunt insects for the offspring.

Can I also identify birds by lost feathers?

In some species, such as jays or male pheasants, it is possible to identify the species by feather feathers that have fallen out.

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