Birds

Federal Eagle: The National Bird of Germany

Germany is a country in Europe with varied ecosystems. The northern border is along the coast of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, the southern border has the mountainous Alps and two major river systems cross the country with both the Rhine and Danube Rivers. Much of Germany is lush forest and the landscape is dotted with freshwater lakes and streams. These ecosystems provide habitat for a diverse array of wildlife including hundreds of bird species. But early in Germany’s history, one bird stood out as a representative of their nation and stands as the national bird today. Read on to find out all about the national bird of Germany!

What is the National Bird of Germany?

The national bird of Germany is the Federal Eagle. The eagle has long been a symbol of freedom and power. As early as the Holy Roman Empire, eagles were featured on Kings and Imperial princes. It is not a surprising choice based on the massive strength of eagle’s talons, their sharp powerful beaks and impressive wingspans, some reaching 8 ½ feet! Think about how large that is! The average arm span for a man is 5 feet 9 inches, a woman 5 feet 4 inches. Reach your arms out to get an idea of just how impressive eagles are!

The national bird of Germany is the Federal Eagle, an abstract concept of eagles possibly based off the eastern imperial eagle.

©LABETAA Andre/Shutterstock.com

How Big Are Eagles?

Eagles range in size from the larger Philippine eagles that can be as tall as 3 feet to the smaller serpent eagle that can be around 16 inches tall. Wingspans of the largest eagles are as follows:

Species Wingspan
Martial Eagle 8.5 feet
Stellar’s Sea Eagle 8.3 feet
American Bald Eagle 8.2 feet
White-tailed Eagle 7.8 feet
Golden Eagle 7.5 feet

Why is the Federal Eagle the National Bird of Germany?

The Federal Eagle is the national bird of Germany because it represents courage, freedom and power. The eagle was an early symbol of the Holy Roman Empire and in 1433 the double-headed eagle was introduced to represent the Emperor. From 1433-1806 this remained the symbol of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. When the German Empire was proclaimed in 1871, they reverted back to the Prussian tradition of using the one-headed eagle. The Weimar Republic also adopted the one headed eagle as their symbol. The current Federal Coat of Arms and the Federal Eagle have stayed the same as of January 20, 1950.

German federal coat of arms
Germany’s Federal Coat of Arms features the Federal Eagle remaining unchanged since 1950.

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Is the Federal Eagle on the German Flag?

The official national flag of Germany features three equal horizontal stripes of black, red and gold. The government flag, called “Dienstflagge der Bundesbehörden” in German features the national flag with the coat of arms which features a black eagle with a red beak and red talons on a gold shield. The Federal Eagle or “Bundesadler” was formerly known as the “Imperial Eagle” or “Reichsadler.”

Is the Federal Eagle on German Money?

The currency of Germany is currently the euro, but it used to be the Deutschmark. The federal eagle was a prominent feature on the German coins with the eagle being on the back of the DM 1, DM 2 and DM 5. The 1960 series of the banknotes featured a Federal Eagle with its feathered wings outstretched on the back of the 100 note.

When Germany switched to using the Euro they chose the Federal Eagle to be featured on the back of their €1 and €2 coins. The fronts of the coins are universal but the backs are designed by each nation minting them.

German Federal Eagle depicted on old Deutsche Mark coins
Prior to adopting the euro the Federal Eagle was a prominent feature on German coins.

©iStock.com/wrangel

What Other Animals live in Germany?

Other animals that live in Germany include bird species like great bustard cranes (with some of the last remaining in Bradenburg, Germany), osprey, kites and barnacle geese. Waterfowl in Germany include common sandpipers that you will be sure to see if you visit any of the beaches in Germany as well as great egrets, crakes and grebes.

Animals that can be found in the Alps in the Bavarian Forest National Park are the lynx, European bison, beaver, otter, bear and wolf. Along with the Czech Republic’s Sumava National Park this is the largest protected contiguous forest in Central Europe.

When it comes to fish you have the Baltic Sea, North Sea, rivers, lakes and streams. Some of the fish that are common in the brackish Baltic Sea are salmon, sea trout, northern pike and flounder. The North Sea is a popular place for commercial fishing due to the good sized cod, mackerel and sole. The rivers are a healthy habitat for sturgeon, trout, mullet and wels catfish.

Are the World’s Largest Salmon Found in Germany?

Yes! The Danube salmon are the world’s largest salmon and can only be found in the Danube River. These salmon have been recorded at almost 6 feet long! 6 feet! That is longer than your average dining room table! They can grow to be around 155 pounds, unfortunately they are considered “endangered” by the IUCN. Current threats to the population include overfishing and pollution as well as hydropower stations that affect the availability of food and habitat.

Danube salmon are found in the Danube River
The Danube salmon are the world’s largest salmon and can only be found in the Danube River which originates in Germany.

©iStock.com/wrangel

Is the Federal Eagle an Actual Subspecies of Eagle?

There is not a subspecies of eagle called the “Federal Eagle” however the name often refers to the American Bald Eagle. The Federal Eagle of Germany is certainly not a bald eagle. There are two subspecies of Imperial eagles, the eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliacal) and the Spanish imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti). The Spanish imperial eagle is not found in Germany so that is probably not the one represented, but the eastern imperial eagle may have been the eagle used as the representative. The golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is another subspecies that is a likely model for the symbols design based on its range and appearance in history.

There are black eagles (Ictinaetus malaiensis) that match the symbol of the Bundesadler (with the exception of the red beak and legs) but black eagles are not native to Germany and are currently only found in South and Southeast Asia as well as southeastern China.

It is usually agreed that the Federal Eagle represented as the national bird of Germany is an abstract concept of eagles vs. a representation of a specific subspecies. The massive powerful eagle can fly at 60mph and dive at a speed of 150-200mph. It is no wonder why humans have been fascinated by these incredible birds for thousands of years!

The Federal Eagle is the national bird of Germany
The Federal Eagle is the national bird of Germany because it represents courage, freedom and power.

©Jrs Jahangeer/Shutterstock.com

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