List of birds of Metropolitan France

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This article is about the birds found in Metropolitan France; that is, the French mainland and adjacent islands, and Corsica. There is also a specific list for the birds of Corsica. For the birds in the French Overseas territories, see: List of birds of French Guiana, List of birds of French Polynesia, List of birds of Guadeloupe, List of birds of Martinique, List of birds of Réunion, and List of birds of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

This list of birds of Metropolitan France includes the 541 bird species that have been recorded. Species that are only encountered as rare vagrants are marked *RV.



Gaviidae (divers)[edit]

Divers are a group of aquatic birds found in many parts of North America (where they are known as loons) and Northern Europe. They are the size of a large duck or small goose, which they somewhat resemble in shape when swimming, but to which they are completely unrelated. In particular, divers' legs are set very far back which assists swimming underwater but makes walking on land extremely difficult. There are five species worldwide of which four species have been recorded in France.


Podicipedidae (grebes)[edit]

Grebes are small to medium-large freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land. There are 20 species worldwide of which six have been recorded in France.


Diomedeidae (albatrosses)[edit]

Albatrosses are very large, long-lived seabirds of very high aspect-ratio which frequent the Southern Ocean. Any such birds seen in North Atlantic waters will thus be vagrants. There are 21 recognised species: two species have been recorded off the coasts of France.

Procellariidae (shearwaters)[edit]

The procellariids are the main group of medium-sized "true petrels", characterised by united nostrils with medium septum and a long outer functional primary. There are nine species which have been recorded in France.

Hydrobatidae (storm petrels)[edit]

The family Hydrobatidae is the storm-petrels, small pelagic petrels with a fluttering flight which often follow ships. Six species have been recorded in France.


Sulidae (gannets)[edit]

The sulids comprise the gannets and boobies. Both groups are medium to large coastal seabirds that plunge-dive for fish. There are nine species worldwide, one of which is seen off the coasts of France.

Phalacrocoracidae (cormorants)[edit]

Phalacrocoracidae is a family of medium-to-large fish-eating seabirds that includes cormorants and shags. Plumage colouration varies, with the majority having mainly dark plumage.

Fregatidae (frigatebirds)[edit]

Frigatebirds are large seabirds from the tropics with a very high aspect ratio. These birds do not swim and cannot walk well, and cannot take off from a flat surface. Any such bird seen in Northern European waters will be a vagrant. There are five species worldwide, one of which has been recorded off the coast of France.


Ardeidae (herons)[edit]

The family Ardeidae contains bitterns, herons and egrets. Herons and egrets are medium to large wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter necked and more wary. Members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted, unlike other long-necked birds such as storks, ibises and spoonbills. There are 61 species worldwide, of which 13 species have been recorded in France

Threskiornithidae (ibises, spoonbills)[edit]

Threskiornithidae is a family of large terrestrial and wading birds which includes the ibises and spoonbills. They have long, broad wings with 11 primary and about 20 secondary feathers. They are strong fliers and, despite their size and weight, very capable soarers. There are 36 species worldwide, three occur in France. The sacred ibis is an introduced species, now with an established feral population.


Ciconiidae (storks)[edit]

Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked, wading birds with long, stout bills. Storks are mute, but bill-clattering is an important mode of communication at the nest. Their nests can be large and may be reused for many years. Many species are migratory. There are 19 species worldwide of which two species occur in France.


Phoenicopteridae (flamingoes)[edit]

Flamingos are gregarious wading birds, usually 3 to 5 feet (91 to 152 cm) high, found in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. Flamingos filter-feed on shellfish and algae. Their oddly shaped beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they consume and, uniquely, are used upside-down. There are six species worldwide, two occur in France.


Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans)[edit]

Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These birds are adapted to an aquatic existence with webbed feet, flattened bills, and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to an oily coating.


Pandionidae (osprey)[edit]

The family Pandionidae contains only one species, the osprey. The osprey is a medium-large raptor which is a specialist fish-eater with a worldwide distribution.

Accipitridae (hawks, kites, eagles)[edit]

Accipitridae is a family of birds of prey, which includes hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures. They have powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons and keen eyesight.


Falconidae (falcons)[edit]

Falconidae is a family of diurnal birds of prey. They differ from hawks, eagles and kites in that they kill with their beaks instead of their talons. There are 62 species worldwide, ten of which have been recorded in France.


Tetraonidae (grouse)[edit]

Grouse are game birds, similar to quails and partridges. There are 18 species worldwide of which four species occur in France.

Odontophoridae (New World quails)[edit]

There are 32 species in total of these small ground-feeding gamebirds from the Americas. Two of these were introduced to France for ornamental purposes.

Phasianidae (pheasants, partridges)[edit]

These are terrestrial species of gamebirds, feeding and nesting on the ground. They are variable in size but generally plump, with broad and relatively short wings. There are about 155 species worldwide. Eight species are present in France; four were introduced for hunting or ornamental purposes, and may be bred commercially.


Gruidae (cranes)[edit]

Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or "dances". There are 15 species worldwide, with one species in France.

Rallidae (rails, crakes, gallinules, coots)[edit]

Rallidae is a large family of small to medium-sized birds which includes the rails, crakes, coots and gallinules. Typically they inhabit dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, making them difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs and long toes which are well adapted to soft uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and to be weak fliers. 12 species are found in France.


Otididae (bustards)[edit]

Bustards are large terrestrial birds mainly associated with dry open country and steppes in the Old World. They are omnivorous and nest on the ground. They walk steadily on strong legs and big toes, pecking for food as they go. They have long broad wings with "fingered" wingtips and striking patterns in flight. Many have interesting mating displays. There are 26 species worldwide of which three species occur in France.


Haematopodidae (oystercatchers)[edit]

The oystercatchers are large and noisy plover-like birds, with strong bills used for smashing or prising open molluscs. There are 11 species worldwide, with one in France.

Recurvirostridae (avocets, stilts)[edit]

Recurvirostridae is a family of large wading birds, which includes the avocets and stilts. The avocets have long legs and long up-curved bills. The stilts have extremely long legs and long, thin, straight bills. Of the nine species worldwide, two occur in France.

Burhinidae (thick knees)[edit]

The thick-knees are a group of largely tropical waders in the family Burhinidae. They are found worldwide within the tropical zone, with some species also breeding in temperate Europe and Australia. They are medium to large waders with strong black or yellow-black bills, large yellow eyes and cryptic plumage. Despite being classed as waders, most species have a preference for arid or semi-arid habitats. There are nine species worldwide; one occurs in France.

Glareolidae (pratincoles, coursers)[edit]

Glareolidae is a family of wading birds comprising the pratincoles, which have short legs, long pointed wings and long forked tails, and the coursers, which have long legs, short wings and long, pointed bills which curve downwards. There are 17 species worldwide of which three occur in France.

Charadriidae (plovers, lapwings)[edit]

The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels and lapwings. They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings. They are found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water. There are 66 species worldwide of which 16 species occur in France.

Scolopacidae (sandpipers)[edit]

Scolopacidae is a large diverse family of small to medium-sized shorebirds including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers and phalaropes. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Variation in length of legs and bills enables multiple species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food. There are 47 species which have been recorded in France.

Stercorariidae (skuas)[edit]

The family Stercorariidae are, in general, medium to large sea birds, typically with grey or brown plumage, often with white markings on the wings. They nest on the ground in temperate and arctic regions and are long-distance migrants. There are seven species worldwide of which four species have been recorded off the coasts of France.

Laridae (gulls, terns, and skimmers)[edit]

Laridae is a family of medium to large seabirds and includes gulls, terns, and skimmers. Gulls are typically grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills and webbed feet. Terns are a group of generally medium to large seabirds typically with grey or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. Most terns hunt fish by diving but some pick insects off the surface of fresh water. Terns are generally long-lived birds, with several species known to live in excess of 30 years.

Alcidae (auks)[edit]

A family of seabirds which are superficially similar to penguins with their black-and-white colours, their upright posture and some of their habits but which are able to fly. There are about 23 species worldwide, of which six are recorded in France.


Pteroclidae (sandgrouse)[edit]

Sandgrouse have small pigeon-like heads and necks, but sturdy compact bodies. They have long pointed wings and sometimes tails and a fast direct flight. Flocks fly to watering holes at dawn and dusk. Their legs are feathered down to the toes. There are 16 species worldwide; two occur in France.


Columbidae (pigeons, doves)[edit]

Pigeons and doves are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills with a fleshy cere. There are 308 species worldwide of which six species occur in France.


Psittaculidae (Old World parrots)[edit]

Psittacidae (African and New World parrots)[edit]


Cuculidae (cuckoos)[edit]

The family Cuculidae includes cuckoos, roadrunners and anis. These birds are of variable size with slender bodies, long tails and strong legs. The Old World cuckoos are brood parasites. There are 138 species worldwide of which three species occur in France.


Tytonidae (barn owls)[edit]

Barn owls are medium to large owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons. There are about 16 species worldwide with one in France.

Strigidae (typical owls)[edit]

Typical owls are small to large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disc. There are about 199 species worldwide, of which ten are recorded in France.


Caprimulgidae (nightjars)[edit]

Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds that usually nest on the ground. They have long wings, short legs and very short bills. Most have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed wings. Their soft plumage is camouflaged to resemble bark or leaves. There are 86 nightjar species worldwide; three are found in France.


Apodidae (swifts)[edit]

Swifts are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang. There are 98 species worldwide of which three occur in France.


Alcedinidae (kingfishers)[edit]

Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long, pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails. There are 93 species worldwide; one species of which occurs in France.

Meropidae (bee-eaters)[edit]

The bee-eaters are a group of near passerine birds in the family Meropidae. Most species are found in Africa but others occur in southern Europe, Madagascar, Australia and New Guinea. They are characterised by richly coloured plumage, slender bodies and usually elongated central tail feathers. All are colourful and have long downturned bills and pointed wings, which give them a swallow-like appearance when seen from afar. There are 26 species worldwide, two occur in France.

Coraciidae (typical rollers)[edit]

Rollers resemble crows in size and build, but are more closely related to the kingfishers and bee-eaters. They share the colourful appearance of those groups with blues and browns predominating. The two inner front toes are connected, but the outer toe is not. There are 12 species worldwide; one species occurs in France.

Upupidae (hoopoes)[edit]

Hoopoes have black, white and orangey-pink colouring with a large erectile crest on their head. There are two species worldwide, one occurs in France.


Picidae (woodpeckers)[edit]

Woodpeckers are small to medium-sized birds with chisel-like beaks, short legs, stiff tails and long tongues used for capturing insects. Some species have feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward, while several species have only three toes. Many woodpeckers have the habit of tapping noisily on tree trunks with their beaks.


Alaudidae (larks)[edit]

Larks are small terrestrial birds with often extravagant songs and display flights. Most larks are dull in appearance. Their food is insects and seeds.

Hirundinidae (swallows, martins)[edit]

The family Hirundinidae is adapted to aerial feeding. They have a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings and a short bill with a wide gape. The feet are adapted to perching rather than walking, and the front toes are partially joined at the base. There are 75 species worldwide, six have been recorded in France.

Motacillidae (wagtails, pipits)[edit]

Motacillidae is a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits. They are slender, ground feeding insectivores of open country. There are 54 species worldwide, 15 of which have been recorded in France.

Regulidae (kinglets)[edit]

The kinglets, also called crests, are a small group of birds often included in the Old World warblers, but frequently given family status because they also resemble the titmice. There are seven species worldwide, two occur in France

Bombycillidae (waxwings)[edit]

The waxwings are a group of birds with soft silky plumage and unique red tips to some of the wing feathers. In the Bohemian and cedar waxwings, these tips look like sealing wax and give the group its name. These are arboreal birds of northern forests. They live on insects in summer and berries in winter. Of the three species worldwide, one occurs in France.

Cinclidae (dippers)[edit]

Dippers are a group of perching birds whose habitat includes aquatic environments in the Americas, Europe and Asia. They are named for their bobbing or dipping movements. Five species exist worldwide, one occurs in France.

Troglodytidae (wrens)[edit]

The wrens are mainly small and inconspicuous except for their loud songs. These birds have short wings and thin down-turned bills. Several species often hold their tails upright. All are insectivorous.

Prunellidae (accentors)[edit]

The accentors are in the only bird family, Prunellidae, which is completely endemic to the Palearctic. They are small, fairly drab species superficially similar to sparrows. There are 13 species worldwide, three occur in France.

Turdidae (thrushes)[edit]

The thrushes are a group of passerine birds that occur mainly in the Old World. They are plump, soft-plumaged, small-to-medium-sized insectivores or sometimes omnivores, often feeding on the ground. Many have attractive songs. There are 335 species worldwide of which 14 species have been recorded in France.

Cisticolidae (cisticolas)[edit]

The Cisticolidae are warblers found mainly in warmer southern regions of the Old World. They are generally very small birds of drab brown or grey appearance found in open country such as grassland or scrub. There are 111 species worldwide; one occurs in France.

Cettiidae (cettid warblers)[edit]

Locustellidae (locustellid warblers)[edit]

Acrocephalidae (acrocephalid warblers)[edit]

Phylloscopidae (phylloscopid warblers)[edit]

Sylviidae (Old World warblers)[edit]

The family Sylviidae is a group of small insectivorous passerine birds. They mainly occur as breeding species, as the common name implies, in Europe, Asia and, to a lesser extent, Africa. Most are of generally undistinguished appearance, but many have distinctive songs.

Muscicapidae (Old World flycatchers)[edit]

Old World flycatchers are a large group of small passerine birds native to the Old World. They are mainly small arboreal insectivores. The appearance of these birds is highly varied, but they mostly have weak songs and harsh calls.

Panuridae (bearded reedling)[edit]

Aegithalidae (long-tailed tits)[edit]

Long-tailed tits are a group of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They make woven bag nests in trees. Most eat a mixed diet which includes insects. There are nine species worldwide, one occurs in France.

Paridae (true tits)[edit]

The Paridae are mainly small stocky woodland species with short stout bills. Some have crests. They are adaptable birds, with a mixed diet including seeds and insects. There are 59 species worldwide, seven of which occur in France.

Sittidae (nuthatches)[edit]

Nuthatches are small woodland birds. They have the unusual ability to climb down trees head first, unlike other birds which can only go upwards. Nuthatches have big heads, short tails and powerful bills and feet. There are 24 species worldwide, of which two occur in France. The Corsican nuthatch is France's sole endemic species.

Tichodromidae (wallcreeper)[edit]

The wallcreeper is a small bird related to the nuthatch family, which has stunning crimson, grey and black plumage. There is only the one species in this family.

Certhiidae (treecreepers)[edit]

Treecreepers are small woodland birds, brown above and white below. They have thin pointed down-curved bills, which they use to extricate insects from bark. They have stiff tail feathers, like woodpeckers, which they use to support themselves on vertical trees. There are six species worldwide, two occur in France.

Remizidae (penduline tits)[edit]

The penduline tits are a group of small passerine birds related to the true tits. They are insectivores. There are 13 species worldwide; one occurs in France.

Oriolidae (Old-World orioles)[edit]

The Old World orioles are colourful passerine birds. They are not related to the New World orioles. There are 29 species worldwide; one is present in France.

Laniidae (shrikes)[edit]

Shrikes are passerine birds known for their habit of catching other birds and small animals and impaling the uneaten portions of their bodies on thorns. A typical shrike's beak is hooked, like a bird of prey. There are 31 species worldwide, eight are seen in France.

Corvidae (crows)[edit]

The family Corvidae includes crows, ravens, jays, choughs, magpies, treepies, nutcrackers and ground jays. Corvids are larger than the average size for species in the Passeriformes order and some show high levels of intelligence. There are 120 species worldwide, with ten species in France.

Sturnidae (starlings)[edit]

Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds. Their flight is strong and direct and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country. They eat insects and fruit. Plumage is typically dark with a metallic sheen.

Vireonidae (vireos)[edit]

The vireos are a group of small- to medium-sized passerine birds restricted to the New World. There are about 52 species worldwide. One occurs as a vagrant in France.

Parulidae (New World warblers)[edit]

A group of small, often colourful passerine birds restricted to the New World. Most are arboreal and insectivorous. There are about 118 species worldwide. Five have occurred as vagrants in France.

Calcariidae (longspurs and Arctic buntings)[edit]

Emberizidae (buntings)[edit]

The emberizids are a large family of passerine birds. They are seed-eating birds with distinctively shaped bills. In Europe, most species are called buntings. In North America, most of the species in this family are known as sparrows, but these birds are not closely related to the Old World sparrows which are in the family Passeridae. Many emberizid species have distinctive head patterns.

Icteridae (icterids)[edit]

The icterids are a group of small to medium-sized, often colourful passerine birds restricted to the New World. Most species have black as a predominant plumage colour, often enlivened by yellow, orange or red. There are 30 species worldwide: one has occurred as a vagrant in France

Fringillidae (finches)[edit]

Finches are seed-eating passerine birds, that are small to moderately large and have a strong beak, usually conical and in some species very large. All have twelve tail feathers and nine primaries. These birds have a bouncing flight with alternating bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings, and most sing well. There are 137 species worldwide of which 20 species occur in France.

Passeridae (sparrows)[edit]

Sparrows are small passerine birds. In general, sparrows tend to be small, plump, brown or grey birds with short tails and short powerful beaks. Sparrows are seed eaters, but they also consume small insects. There are 35 species worldwide; six occur in France.


External links[edit]

Media related to Birds of France at Wikimedia Commons