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Geneva’s winter flora may be brown and wilted but our bird population is rich in color. Lac Leman is a favorite winter resting ground for many birds: the endangered Ferruginous duck, the colorful Mandarin Duck and the rare Black-necked Grebe. And just last Sunday my daughter noticed two magnificent rare White Storks resting near the Baby Plage.

Geneva has three protected lake zones for migratory birds:

  • Rive Gauche (Port Noir to Hermance)
  • Rive Droite (Geneva to Versoix)
  • Rhone River from the Rade de Geneve to Chancy

The objective of these zones is to allow birds to rest and feed without expending energy protecting themselves from human activity. The only rules outlined on the Ville de Genève Website (here) is that dogs must be kept on a leash. And regarding the Rhone, it means no water sports or boats on the river from October 1 to March 31.


Lakeside sign: Don’t feed the birds.

I am by no means a serious bird watcher but I do stop and watch the birds. One of my favorite walking areas is the wetlands of Plaine de Sionnet near Meinier, an area created by Pro Natura after extensive negotiations with local farmers. The swamps host a number of water birds while the surrounding fields feed egrets, herons and pheasants. You can find bird-watching areas near you by visiting the GOBG webpage here. Look at the list of “les bons coins” in the left column.

If you’re new to Geneva and are interested in the birds in your back yard, the most common are:

  • The delicate European robin with the beautifully pronounced French name Rouge Gorge.
  • The Black Bird with its bright orange beak that secretly nests in your hedge with the most amazing spring mating song.
  • The Coal, Great and Blue Tits (I prefer the American name Chickadee which is easier to say without blushing).
  • The bright European Green Woodpecker which is one of the few woodpeckers who lands on the ground to eat ants.
  • The Eurasian Collared Dove which often nests near your doorway in order to stay safe from predators.
  • And owls which I sometimes hear screeching at night and have had the pleasure of seeing inexperienced juveniles sleeping too obviously low down in nearby trees.
Photo by Kaspar Mettler

Photo by Kaspar Mettler

Looking for local resources? 

  • Vogalwarte, the Swiss Ornithological Institute in Sempach (canton Lucerne) has excellent photos, descriptions and statistics of Switzerland’s birds (in English).
  • Groupe Ornithologique du Bassin Genevois has a list of great bird watching areas under “les bons coins,” and posts regarding excursions and events relating to birds.
  • Ornitho.ch is a forum of bird sightings, locations and analysis. Make sure you understand the symbols here and narrow down your search to Geneva here.

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland.  If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/