Switzerland is known for the Swiss Alps and the peaceful temperament of the country. There are many symbols that represent the country but when it comes to picking a national bird it can sometimes be difficult. There are many bird species that are common to the Swiss people like ducks, geese and pigeons and then there are some remarkable birds that stand out from the crowd. Long-legged cranes, regal golden eagles and the wicked fast peregrine falcon would all make worthy national birds but are any of these the national bird of Switzerland? What about the spikey haired Turaco? Some say the turaco is the national bird of Switzerland while others mention the more common blackbird. There is not an official national bird of Switzerland but there is reason to believe it is more likely the blackbird than the turaco. Read on to find out all about the national bird!
Is the Turaco the National Bird of Switzerland?
A search on the official website of the Swiss Government comes up with “0 results” for national animal or national bird. The Swiss National Museum admits that the Swiss do not have a national animal but have a display highlighting “the big 4” including the cow, ibex, marmot and Saint Bernard.
The turaco may have mistakenly been labeled the national bird of Switzerland because the national bird of Swaziland is the turaco. Swaziland is the previous name of the country Eswatini, a country in Africa. The natural range of turacos is southern Africa in countries like Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. The specific turaco that is the national bird of Eswatini is the purple crested turaco. One look at these beautiful birds and you know why they are!
What is the National Bird of Switzerland?
The national bird of Switzerland is the blackbird. While there is not an official national bird of Switzerland (or national animal for that matter) the blackbird is one that the people of Switzerland openly admire. It is one of the three most common birds seen in Switzerland, along with the sparrow and magpie. They also live near humans making them a recognizable bird. Blackbirds come in a variety of subspecies but the most common are all black with bright orange beaks. Compared to American robins they are about the same size, around 7-11 inches long.
Where do Blackbirds Live?
Blackbirds live throughout much of Switzerland, making itself at home in backyard gardens, neighborhood parks and along the edges of woodlands. They are an adaptable bird and can live in rural, suburban and urban settings as long as there is an abundance of food. Blackbirds eat insects, earthworms, grains and berries so their diet is quite varied. They don’t mind munching on leftovers from humans like discarded food scraps or chunks of bread every now and again.
Are Blackbirds Featured on the Flag of Switzerland?
No. The flag of Switzerland is a white cross on a red background. While most flags are rectangular in shape, the land flag of Switzerland is a square with four equal sides. The design is based on the imperial war flag of the Holy Roman Empire. The flag design became the official flag of Switzerland back in 1848 when Switzerland’s federal constitution was adopted. The Vatican City also displays a square flag but Switzerland is the only country that has a square flag.
Are Blackbirds Featured on the Money of Switzerland?
No. The money of Switzerland is the Franc. The coins feature a standing Helvetia and the herder and the banknotes have a newer series that have hands on the front in various symbolic poses and are all themed around time, light, wind, water, matter and language. The designs on the banknotes are really fascinating artwork. Did you know Switzerland has four national languages? All four are featured on the Swiss banknotes; German, French, Italian and Romansh.
What about the Coat of Arms, are there Blackbirds on the Coat of Arms?
The main Coat of Arms for the country is the same as the flag, a white cross on a red background, on a shield shape vs a square. However each canton (state) of Switzerland has its own Coat of Arms and there are a few that chose animals to represent them. Here are a few of them:
- Bern: bear
- Uri: bull
- Schaffhausen: ram
- Appenzell Innerrhoden: bear
- Appenzell Ausserrhoden: bear
- Grisons: ibex
- Thurgau: two lions
- Geneva: eagle
What other Birds Live in Switzerland?
There are plenty of common birds in Switzerland including many that live near humans and can be seen in backyards, parks and gardens. Many times the male birds are more colorful than the females but other times both the males and females look very similar. Some of the birds that look different are the chaffinch, bullfinch, nuthatch and greenfinch. Birds in Switzerland that have the males and females looking similar are wood pigeon, dunnock, blackcap, jackdaw and magpie.
Bearded vultures are some of the biggest birds in Switzerland. They can get to be 3-4 feet long and have a wing span of 7 ½ feet or more! Interestingly these vultures are bone eaters, consuming the whole bone, not just the marrow. Another bird of prey in Switzerland is the golden eagle. It is similar to the bald eagle but its head and feathers are all dark brown mixed with golden-colored feathers. Their wingspan is about the same as the bearded vulture between 6-7 ½ feet.
What other Animals Live in Switzerland?
There are a variety of other animals that live in Switzerland. Starting with the Swiss Alps there are a variety of high altitude animals that thrive in the Alps. Snow voles, mountain hares and ibex can adapt to the cooler temps that the Alps often have. You can also find red deer, chamois, fox, marmot and lynx. Pike and trout are plentiful in many of the mountain streams as well as barbel and chub. There are also a variety of lizards, frogs and snakes including two venomous snakes, the asp viper and common European adder.
Are Saint Bernards Actually Swiss Dogs?
Saint Bernard dogs were originally bred to be rescue dogs along the Switzerland/Italian border. You have probably seen a photo of these large brown and white dogs with a small barrel (or cask) tied around their neck. There are varying stories as to what was inside the barrels, most agree it was some kind of alcohol like brandy, rum, schnapps or a secret Swiss recipe. The alcohol is to help warm and restore blood flow in the rescue victims.
Male Saint Bernards can get to be 28-30 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh as much as 140-180 pounds! One of the most famous Saint Bernards is Barry who the Barry Foundation got their name from. Barry was a Saint Bernard in Switzerland that lived from 1800-1814 and was responsible for 40 rescues! A museum called Barryland features all the heroic tales of Barry and other rescue dogs.
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is a turaco the national bird of Switzerland?
No. The turaco may have mistakenly been labeled the national bird of Switzerland because the national bird of Swaziland is the turaco. Swaziland is the previous name of the country Eswatini, a country in Africa. The natural range of turacos is southern Africa in countries like Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
What is considered the national bird of Switzerland?
The national bird of Switzerland is the blackbird. While there is not an official national bird of Switzerland (or national animal for that matter) the blackbird is one that the people of Switzerland openly admire.
Is the blackbird featured on Swiss money?
No. The money of Switzerland is the Franc. The coins feature a standing Helvetia and the herder and the banknotes have a newer series that have hands on the front in various symbolic poses and are all themed around time, light, wind, water, matter and language.
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- , Available here: https://a-z-animals.com/animals/location/europe/switzerland/
- , Available here: https://houseofswitzerland.org/swissstories/history/st-bernard-making-alpine-legend
- , Available here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/flag-of-Switzerland