The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg is home to, a unique selection of bird species for Germany which are more usually found in the warmer climes of the Mediterranean. For example, the Bee-eater and Hoopoe breed on the Kaiserstuhl, the Alpine Swift is to be found in nearby Freiburg and the Purple Heron in Waghaeusel. At the same time some species, the core of whose distribution is in Central Europe, also have significant populations in the state. These include the Red Kite, Middle Spotted Woodpecker and the Collared Flycatcher, as well as the Citril Finch - a representative of the alpine fauna - which has an isolated population in the Black Forest.
The state has many wetland habitats of national importance which, apart from Lake Constance (dealt with in detail below) are mainly to be found along the Rhine Valley and in the bogs of Upper Swabia (Schwaben).
Divers, Black-necked Grebe, Little Bittern, Bewick’s and Whooper Swan, Ruddy Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard and Ferruginous Duck, all Central European wader species, Mediterranean Gull, Black Tern, White-winged Black Tern, Whiskered Tern, Savi's Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Bearded Tit and a number of rarities.
Probably the best area for birding, after Lake Constance (details below), is the area around Freiburg with the sole breeding population of Alpine Swift in Germany. Alpine as well as Mediterranean species also breed between the Feldberg and Kaiserstuhl. In this area it is possible, within a short space of time, to observe Citril Finch, Ring Ouzel, Bee-eater and Hoopoe. Together with the Taubergiessennature reserve, the Freiburg region is good for a full week’s birdwatching. The best time to visit is mid-May to the end of June. This is also the best time for visiting the middle Alb foothills which provide a good insight into the bird life of the cultivated orchard meadows which are widespread in the area. A trip to this region can be combined with the wetlands at the Federsee or the River Danube near Ulm. For those wanting to combine a wetland visit with the Northern Black Forest, the Wagbachniederung near Waghaeusel is a must. This is perhaps the best wetland in the state apart from Lake Constance region.
Lake Constance (Bodensee) on the borders of Germany, Austria and Switzerland…
Lake Constance is the largest German inland water with a surface area of 570 km². Its maximum length is 63 km and it is 14 km wide at its broadest point. For birdwatching it is one of the most productive and varied regions in the whole of central Europe with 150 breeding bird species and over 410 confirmed species sightings. The proximity to the Alps and the sheer abundance of bird life add to the region’s attractions.
Divers, Black-necked Grebe, Little Bittern, Bewick’s and Whooper Swan, Ruddy Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard and Ferruginous Duck, all Central European wader species, Mediterranean Gull, Forster's Tern, Savi's Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Bearded Tit and a number of rarities.
Two important migration routes, the northern border with the Alps and the broad Rhine valley which are used by many species for traversing the Alps, meet at Lake Constance. When the conditions for overflying the Alps are unsuitable the migrating birds concentrate locally and large numbers of resting birds can be observed. This constellation is particularly relevant in the Rhine Delta where, as a result, many rare species are recorded annually.
Lake Constance is the most important central European rest, moult and overwintering area for many water birds. The Untersee part of the lake (which spreads out from the river Rhine to the waters of the Gnadensee, Zeller See, and Untersee) is rich in nutrition and attracts enormous concentrations of birds. The make-up of these water bird gatherings varies from season to season. In September they are characterised by late breeding species such as Great Crested and Black-necked Grebe, Tufted Duck and Mute Swan as well as breeding or visiting species in moult like the Red-crested Pochard. Later in November large numbers of diving ducks such as Tufted Duck, Pochard, Goldeneye, Teal, Gadwall, and Whooper Swan and Cormorants can be observed. Up to 200,000 water birds gather on Lake Constance at this time, many of which fed primarily on the Zebra Mussel. From January onwards the mussel eaters still dominate but the overwintering populations of divers, sea ducks and goosanders reach their peak.
If the water level of the lake falls under 300 cm, mud-flats are exposed all around the shoreline providing good conditions for waders in transit. The actual state of the water level can be obtained by telephone under +49 7531-29580 (recorded info in German).
Birding the Lake Constance region
The Vorarlberg Rhine Delta is the top birding area at any time of year and the Wollmatinger Ried should also not be neglected. The so-called diver stretch is very interesting in winter. Mettnau, Eriskircher Ried, and the Radolfzell und Stockach Aach estuaries can also be included in the programme. In spring and summer the Hohentwiel Vulkanberg is worth visiting. The Mindelsee is well worth a detour in autumn for its Ferruginous Ducks (with a 99.9 % sighting chance!). A five day tour in the Lake Constance area is time enough to experience a wide-ranging insight into the area’s bird life.
It is advisable to take your passport with you if you plan to cross the border into Austria or Switzerland where motorway tolls must be paid (vignette). All areas described are accessible by main road.
Donauaue and Donaumoos
The Danube floodplain near Guenzburg (with the Faiminger Reservoir, and also the Erbacher und Oepfinger Reservoirs) contains an especially rich variety of habitats that are home to very many species. On a good early summer's day, you can easily see 80 species if all recommended places are visited. The area is well known for its large Collared Flycatcher population. But other sought after species such as the Middle Spotted Woodpecker also occur.
The most extensive bog region in the state lies to the northeast of Bad Buchau, between Biberach and Riedlingen. It is a Europa reserve and European bird protection area. Its importance is above all for reed-dwellers such as Savi’s Warbler and Bearded Tit which otherwise only occur in Baden-Wuerttemberg in the Waghaeusel and Wollmatinger Ried reserves. To date 265 species have been recorded including 107 breeding birds. Best times to visit are in April and June for Quail, Corncrake, Snipe, Curlew, Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail und Whinchat in the meadows, and Marsh Harrier Water Rail, Bluethroat, Sedge Warbler, Savi's Warbler und Bearded Reedling which breed in the reed beds. The White Stork visits regularly to feed. A few pairs of Red Kite, Black Kite und Hobby breed in the area. Hen Harrier (most important roost in southern Germany), Merlin and Great Grey Shrike are regular guests in winter. Other interesting species are Bittern (in winter and on passage), Little Bittern (regular on passage), Little und Spotted Crake (irregular breeder), Common Tern, Lesser Spotted, Grey-headed, Green and Black Woodpecker, Tree Pipit, Stonechat, Wood Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler und Red-backed Shrike.
The Feldberg, the highest point in the Black Forest, lies in the South of the region. A nature protection area. The site offers general tourist information and suggested nature trails. Interesting birds include Ring Ouzel, Raven, Citril Finch, Water Pipit und Three-toed Woodpecker.
The extraordinary bird life of the Kaiserstuhl is well-known among Central European ornithologists. The remains of a tertiary volcano juts some 350 m out of the Upper Rhine plain and lies in the rain shadow of the Vosges in the warmest region of Germany. Interesting species include Grey-headed Woodpecker, Woodlark, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Red-backed Shrike, Black Woodpecker, Peregrine, Honey Buzzard, Hobby, Bee-Eater, Stock Dove, Stonechat, Wryneck, and Hoopoe (up to 16 BP).
Lake Constance (Bodensee)
Top sites around Lake Constance - from the Moning & Wagner guide 2005: Hohentwiel im Hegau, Radolfzeller Aachried, Mettnau peninsula, Mindelsee, Stockacher Aachmündung, Wollmatinger Ried-Untersee-Gnadensee, Diver stretch (in Switzerland, Eriskircher Ried, Vorarlberg Rhine delta (Austria), a must!
The reserve comprises the remaining area of the former clay pit (core zone some 10 hectares) as well as the exploited quarry (some 24 hectares). In addition to the conservation of the core zone with breeding sites of rare species such as Purple Heron, Penduline Tit, Great Reed Warbler, Kingfisher, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Marsh Harrier, Sedge Warbler, Sparrowhawk und Little Bittern. Much of the quarry has been re-naturalised. The reserve is very important as a passage and wintering habitat.
The nature reserve is one of the largest in the state. It consists of extensive meadow and riverine woodland countryside crisscrossed with a network of waterways. It is one of the last remaining large, near-natural water meadow habitats in Germany. Of particular ornithological interest is the large Middle Spotted Woodpecker population. Other interesting bird species include Great White Egret and und rarely Purple Heron. Common, Black Tern and Osprey are passage guests. Ducks include Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Garganey, Pintail and Pochard. A few pairs of Kingfisher and Great Reed Warbler breed here as has the Penduline Tit. Water Rail breed in the reeds. Winter visitors are Smew, White-fronted and und Bean Goose as well as Goosander and Goldeneye. Cormorants are also present in large numbers; Bittern and White-tailed Eagle are rare winter guests. In the riverine forest some 10 pairs of Black Woodpecker breeds but the highlight is the 180 pairs of Middle Spotted Woodpecker. Other woodpecker species are Green Woodpecker and Wryneck, Nightingale and Golden Oriole are very common. Other breeders are Black Kite, Honey Buzzard and Hobby. In the extensive meadows east of the dyke, with copses and oxbows, Red-backed Shrike, Great Grey Shrike, Turtle Dove, Long-eared Owl and Corn Bunting are to be found. Bee-eaters visit to feed. The extremely rare Woodchat Shrike has bred here from time to time.
The higher regions of the northern Black Forest
Despite human interference the Black Forest is still one of the less fragmented woodland areas in Germany. It takes its name from the extensive, near-natural, dark mixed woods with the characteristic Silver Fir. This often primeval woodland is to be found in the core area of the National Park. They are home to numerous animal species such as Roe and Red Deer, Wild Boar and the very occasional Lynx; but also to birds such as the Raven, Three-toed Woodpecker, Pygmy Owl or Capercaillie, the symbolic bird of the Black Forest.
The Middle Alb foothills
Near Goeppingen and Schorndorf and environs
The reserve, of some 224 hectares, lies between Mannheim and Karlsruhe on the right bank of the Rhine near Waghaeusel. It was previously an oxbow lake cut off from the main river course some 8,000 years ago. It consists or original reed beds and water meadows, an abandoned quarry and an old sugar beet factory in Waghaeusel with sewage and sludge pools. It is an important rest area for waders and other migrants. Previously 96 species bred here and 250 have been recorded. The whole area can be observed from field tracks. Entry from the car park at the pilgrimage church in the village (via motorway A5, exit Kronau/Waghaeusel and Kirrlach). Cross the main road to get into the northern part of the reserve. A visit can be combined with the following nature reserve in Rhineland-Palatinate
Edited and translated by
Christoph Moning & Christian Wagner
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 355
(As at March 2019)
Birdwatching in Southern Germany
(The best birdwatching areas between the River Mosel and Mt. Watzmann) | by Christoph Moning & Christian Wagner | Kosmos Verlag | 2012 | Edition 3 | Paperback | 365 pages, colour photos, 150+ colour maps | (In German) |
ISBN: 9783440125380Buy this book from NHBS.com
Ornithologische Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bodensee (OAB)
Lake Constance (Bodensee) Ornithological Working Group Comprehensive information in German on the bird life of Lake Constance and the activities of the OAB. Some 412 species (including 50 captivity escapes)have been recordedon Lake Constance. Birdwatching is easy from many viewpoints along the shoreline. With a bit of luck you will have surprise sightings all year round…
Ornithologische Gesellschaft Baden-Württemberg
The Ornithological Society Baden-Württemberg e.V. (OGBW), founded in 2005, is the amalgamation of the Southwest German Feldornithologists. With a focus on scientific avifauna, more than 400 members make important contributions to bird protection in Baden-Württemberg.
NP Black Forest
The national park has an area of 10,062 hectares (100.62 km2; 38.85 sq mi) and is located on the main crest of the Northern Black Forest, mainly between the Black Forest High Road (Schwarzwaldhochstraße) and the valley of the Murg.
NR Federsee Fen
The Europa reserve is an SPA with 107 breeding bird species and a total of 265 species recorded. A short introduction and description in English is included.
The Nonnenmattweiher is a lake that has been impounded by an embankment in the Southern Black Forest in Germany. Together with the surrounding area it forms a nature reserve of the same name in the High Black Forest in the state of Baden-Württemberg.
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
Arbeitsgemeinschaft Wanderfalkenschutz Baden-Württemberg
Baden-Wuerrtemburg Peregrine Working Group - The working group peregrine falconry Baden-Wuerttemberg (AGW) in the NABU was created 1965, with the aim to protect the indigenous peregrine falcons from extinction. At the same time, the foundations for the reconstruction of a stable population should be developed.
Christoph Moning’s & Christian Wagner’s very detailed website (in German) with recommended birdwatching areas and species lists for Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Brandenburg, Hesse and the Wadden Sea.
Photographers & Artists
Hofmann & Scheffer nature-photography
All about birds in the wild, in aviculture, science and about nature photography. We are located in small-town Rottenacker in beautiful southern Germany. But the places where you will find us taking pictures spans around the globe….