From 1908 onward, he studied zoology at the Universities of Jena, Munich and Freiburg, earning his PhD at Munich in 1920. Within this time frame he participated in the "Second Freiburg Expedition" to the Moluccas (1910-12) and performed military service (1914-18). From 1921 onwards he was in charge of the bird department of the Berlin Zoological Museum, In 1930 he became a titled professor, and from 1946 to 1961 he was a "professor with tenure" for zoology at the University of Berlin.
Stresemann was one of the outstanding ornithologists of the 20th century. He encouraged a number of young German scientists, including Ernst Mayr and Bernhard Rensch.
Stresemann was the long-standing editor of the Journal für Ornithologie (1922 onward). As editor, he demonstrated a preference for articles dealing with the anatomy, physiology and the behaviour of birds. His major publication was the volume Aves (1927–1934) in the Handbuch der Zoologie (Handbook of Zoology). He also wrote Entwicklung der Ornithologie von Aristoteles bis zur Gegenwart (1951), a review of the development of ornithology from Aristotle to modern times, translated into English in 1975 as "Ornithology from Aristotle to the Present".