Birds of prey are known as lords of the air and they are symbols of power and freedom on coats of arms. However, the population of some species has decreased in Germany because their habitats are disappearing.


What distinguishes alders is their exceptionally good visual acuity, which allows them to spot their prey from great heights. In addition, they are among the birds of prey with a very large wingspan.

Fischadler (Pandion haliaetus)

Ospreys don’t stop at fish ponds either. In doing so, they repeatedly get caught in mains surges to protect themselves from fishing birds, which often cost them their lives.

  • Size: 50-66cm
  • Wingspan: 127 – 174 cm
  • Plumage: white underside, dark brown upperside, easy to identify by the white head with dark eye stripe
  • Food: Specialized in fishing in clear waters
  • Breeding season: April – July
  • Habitat: clear lakes rich in fish with surrounding forest, coasts with rocky areas
  • Endangerment: endangered

lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina)

The lesser spotted eagle has a special hunting behavior because it pursues its prey on foot.

  • Size: 55-67cm
  • Wingspan: 146 – 168 cm
  • Plumage: strong fingering on primaries, brown above and below
  • Food: Small mammals (mainly voles ), amphibians
  • Breeding season: late April – mid-May
  • Habitat: deciduous and mixed forests with lowlands
  • Endangerment: Critically Endangered

Seeadler (Haliaeetus albicilla)

The white-tailed eagle is the bird of prey with the largest wingspan in Germany.

  • Size: 74-92cm
  • Wingspan: 193 – 244 cm
  • Plumage: tail short and wedge-shaped, large head with distinctive yellow beak, brown ground color, head slightly lighter, tail distinctly darker
  • Diet: Fish, birds (mainly waterfowl), eggs, carrion
  • Breeding season: mid-February – mid-March
  • Habitat: Bodies of water and wetlands with rocky coasts or old growth
  • Endangerment: endangered
Note: Sea eagles are closely related to the American bald eagle. Occasionally it can happen that the American birds of prey can also be seen in Germany when they leave bird of prey stations on longer trips that can last several days.

Steinadler (Aquila chrysaetos)

The golden eagle was threatened with extinction. The population of these birds of prey could be increased again through special species protection programs.

  • Size: 80-100cm
  • Wingspan: 190 – 230 cm
  • Plumage: Dark brown ground colour, nape golden yellow, tail with lighter bands, primaries colored brown, white and black
  • Food: marmots, chamois and fawns, mountain hares, grouse, fallen game
  • Breeding season: mid-March – mid-April
  • Habitat: high mountains
  • Endangerment: Critically Endangered
Note: In order to successfully resettle the birds of prey, streams of visitors are deliberately directed away from the breeding areas. Occasionally there are guided hikes in small groups to the nests in nature parks, where it is explained how the birds of prey can be identified and, with a bit of luck, they can even be spotted in nature.


Buzzards belong to the goshawk family. They are in turn divided into several subfamilies.

Mäusebussard (Buteo buteo)

The buzzard is very flexible and can therefore adapt to different habitats.

  • Size: 51-57cm
  • Wingspan: 113 – 128 cm
  • Plumage: wide wings and short tail, variable colouring, back brown to dark brown, light spots on the breast, wide terminal band at the joint, approx. 10 narrow transverse bands
  • Diet: Rodents such as field mice, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, earthworms, large insects, birds
  • Breeding season: mid-March – mid-April
  • Habitat: Varied landscapes with forest and open fields, nesting and roosting places in forests
  • Endangerment: not endangered

Wasp bussard (Pernis apivorus)

The Honey Buzzard can be identified based on its food preferences, as it mainly feeds on wasps.

  • Size: 50-60cm
  • Wingspan: 118 – 144 cm
  • Plumage: Upper side brown, lower side a little lighter, variable coloring, tail with 1 – 2 narrow dark bands and black terminal band
  • Food: Insects (preferably wasps and their larvae)
  • Breeding season: late May – late June
  • Habitat: structured landscapes, deciduous and pine forests
  • Endangerment: not endangered
Note: The honey buzzard even digs up wasp nests in the ground. The stings do not bother the bird of prey as it is protected by its plumage.


Hawks grab their prey, but usually don’t kill it. They are so-called bite slayers and have a specially shaped beak with the so-called falcon tooth, a prong on the left and right of the upper beak.

Baumfalke (Falco subbuteo)

The main prey of the tree falcon includes various large insects that the birds of prey capture in flight.

  • Size: 30-36cm
  • Wingspan: 70 – 85 cm
  • Plumage: whitish cheeks with dark beard stripe, rust-red feathering on legs, dark gray upper surface, whitish underside with dark elongated spots, rust-red undertail coverts
  • Food: small birds, large insects
  • Breeding season: May – early June
  • Habitat: forest edges
  • Endangerment: endangered

Turmfalke (Falco tinnunculus)

Kestrels are easy to identify by their hovering flight in the air. They are popular birds of prey in urban areas because they also hunt pigeons.

  • Size: 34-36cm
  • Wingspan: 75-76 cm
  • Plumage: Pointed wings, red-brown upper side with dark feather tips, tail and head blue-grey, females usually have a slightly lighter basic color but slightly darker spots
  • Food: field mice, small birds, lizards, insects
  • Breeding season: April – July
  • Habitat: Church towers, skyscrapers, bridges, chimneys, forest edges, copses
  • Endangerment: not endangered

Wanderfalke (Falco peregrinus)

Peregrine falcons can also be found in human settlement areas with higher structures.

  • Size: 35-51cm
  • Wingspan: 79 – 114 cm
  • Plumage: light brown throat and cheeks with a dark bar of beard, back grey, underparts light gray with dark transverse bands
  • Food: birds
  • Breeding season: March – late April
  • Habitat: Found in almost all landscapes
  • Endangerment: endangered

Hawks and Sparrowhawks

The genus of hawks and sparrowhawks is the most species-rich group of birds of prey worldwide. However, only two species are native to Germany.


The hawk is feared by pigeon and chicken breeders. The farm animals are easy prey for him and he often gets several animals a week.

  • Size: 46-63cm
  • Wingspan: 89 – 122 cm
  • Plumage: easy to identify based on the fine black and white bands underneath, rounded tail with dark bands, dark to light gray on top
  • Food: rabbits, squirrels, birds
  • Breeding season: mid-March – early April
  • Habitat: Covered landscapes with coniferous and mixed forests, open areas for hunting
  • Endangerment: not endangered

Sperber (Hawk’s Ending)

Feeders for small birds are popular hunting grounds for sparrowhawks, as these birds are among their preferred prey.

  • Size: 29-41cm
  • Wingspan: 58-80cm
  • Plumage: rounded wing and tail, tail with dark bars, wings with dense transverse bands underneath, gray upperside
  • Food: small birds
  • Breeding time: April – May
  • Habitat: semi-open and structured landscapes, open terrain with coniferous and mixed forest
  • Endangerment: not endangered


Only three species belong to the genus of kites, two of which are native to Germany.

Rotmilan (Milvus milvus)

The red kite is often a victim of electrocution on power lines because of its wingspan, since the wires are so close together and it can touch both at the same time when taking off or landing.

  • Size: 60-73cm
  • Wingspan: 150-180cm
  • Plumage: Tail rusty red and deeply forked, variegated in varying shades of brown, head white to grey
  • Food: small mammals, fish, birds, carrion
  • Breeding season: late March – late April
  • Habitat: Varied and structured landscapes, hilly to mountainous terrain, rows of trees, forests
  • Endangerment: Early warning list of declining species

Schwarzmilan (Milvus migrans)

The black kite is the most common bird of prey worldwide.

  • Size: 46-66cm
  • Wingspan: 120 – 153 cm
  • Plumage: Slightly notched tail, dark brown plumage, head slightly lighter
  • Diet: Fish, birds, insects, small mammals, earthworms, carrion
  • Breeding season: early March – early April
  • Habitat: Lake and river landscapes with mature forest nearby
  • Endangerment: endangered


Harriers are special flight artists. For hunting, they use shambling flight, swinging back and forth, and their courtship flight is very graceful.

Kornweihe (Circus cyaneus)

The population of hen harriers is not threatened worldwide. Due to the dwindling habitats in Germany, these birds of prey are considered threatened here.

  • Size: 42-55cm
  • Wingspan: 97 – 118 cm
  • Plumage: Males light gray above and below, black wingtips, females more brownish
  • Food: Small mammals (mainly bats), small birds
  • Breeding season: mid-April – early June
  • Habitat: Coastal regions, heathland, dry grassland, fens, wetlands
  • Endangerment: Critically Endangered

Rohrweihe (Circus aeruginosus)

Many birds of prey used to be hunted intensively and the marsh harrier was one of them for a long time. Only since the 1950s have the stocks recovered.

  • Size: 48-62cm
  • Wingspan: 120-130 cm
  • Plumage: dark brown back, gray wings with black tips, long tail, yellowish head, females also have a yellow crown
  • Diet: Birds, small mammals, fish, reptiles, frogs
  • Breeding season: April – August
  • Habitat: Reeds and reed beds, rapeseed and grain fields
  • Endangerment: not endangered

Wiesenweihe (Circus pygargus)

Due to ever earlier harvest times, many young animals of these birds of prey fall victim to agricultural harvesting machines.

  • Size: 39-50cm
  • Wingspan: 96 – 116 cm
  • Plumage: long narrow wings, white rump, males ash gray and underparts rust-red spots on a whitish background, black wing bars and wingtips, females brownish with beige underwings and brown transverse banding
  • Food: small mammals, small birds, larger insects
  • Breeding time: May – August
  • Habitat: damp, open lowlands, fens, silting-up zones, agricultural landscapes with winter grain fields
  • Endangerment: Critically Endangered

Overwintering in Germany

Two species of birds of prey can only be seen in Germany in winter. They come from the north, such as Scandinavia, and migrate to more southern regions in autumn to overwinter.

  • Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus): 50 – 60 cm long, grey-brown basic color, light-colored tail, easy to identify based on the furry feathering on the toes
  • Merlin (Falco columbarius): 28 – 33 cm long, light brown ground colour, pointed wings, short tail

Both species are currently considered Least Concern in Europe. The reason for this is that they can reproduce undisturbed by humans in their breeding areas and find sufficient food.

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