Birding around Frankfurt Airport – Schwanheimer Duene

Eurasian Golden-OrioleThere are not too many foreign birdwatchers coming to the middle of Germany for just birding. But Frankfurt Airport (FRA) is the gateway to continental Europe. Many airlines use the Airport as a hub for connecting flights all over the world. If you have spare time between two flight and you are a birdwatcher, you might be interested to know, where you can find good places to stretch your legs, enjoy fresh air and enjoy birding for typical european birds. One of these places is only 15 minutes away from the Frankfurt Airport. This is the Schwanheimer Duene (Dunes of Schwanheim) located in a southern outskirt of Frankfurt. In so far, the area is more or less the same distance than the Langener Waldseen. But whereas these lakes, situated just 2 km east of the runway of Frankfurt AP, are a highly frequented recreation area in summertime, the Schwanheimer Duene is especially good in spring and summer. Thus an excellent alternative to the Langener Waldseen which are very productive in wintertime.

The Schwanheimer Duene is one of the few inland dunes in Europe. It was established after the last ice age of sands that have been blown out of the riverbed of the River Main. Then, a forest grew on it. In the last century farmers cleared the forest and put on cherry meadows. Several dry periods ended these attempts in the second half of the 19th Century. The dune devasted and started to wander. Between 1882 and 1890 the dune moved aground to its present location.

Following the desolation a  typical plant community of inland dune developed, which can be encountered up to nowadays. This plant community is called Silbergrasflur (silvery grassland) which is extremely rare and ecologically valuable. With its representatives include Grey Hairgrass (Corynephorus canescens), common shepherd’s cress (Teesdalia nudicaulis) and the Sea Pink (Armeria elongata). In addition to small plants there are some Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris), which resemble with their bizarre growth pines you find on distant coastlines.

The dune has been used more recently for sand and gravel extraction, as can be seen at the ponds which are located inside the area, too. Unfortunately these old gravel pits are fenced and not open to the public to protect these areas as breeding habitat for birds.

The area has been designated as a nature reserve by the State of Hesse in 1984. Since its expansion in 2002, it now covers 58.5 hectares. Since 2003 it is also protected as Flora-Fauna-Habitat Area under European Law. Good birds to be seen in the core areas are European Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia turtur) and especially the Eurasian Golden-Oriole (Oriolus oriolus). But also the passerine birds are well represented with Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio), Icterine Warbler (Hippolais icterina), Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin), Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis), Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca), Hedge Accentor (Prunella modularis ), Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris), Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) and – on migration  – Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) and Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe). The woods hold some species of continental woodpeckers (incl. Middle-spotted, Eurasian Green Woodpecker and Grey-faced Woodpecker) and in some seasons good numbers of Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes ). The Mistle Thrushes (Turdus viscivorus) are often heard and sometimes seen in the canopy of the many pine trees.  In fall you might see large flocks of Common Crane flying overhead following the Main river.

For direction it is recommended to take a taxi for the 15 minutes trip. Tell the taxi driver to bring you in the direction of the “Industriepark Hoechst”. That industrial complex is west of the dunes. He will probably take the highway B43, than exit the B43 only 5 minutes later on the B40 to downtown Frankfurt (Frankfurt – Stadtzentrum). Drive only this direction, do NOT follow the sign to “Industriepark Hoechst”!

The next exit is Exit “Schwanheim”. Leave the exit; the road is signed “Schwanheimer Ufer” – to the west (left direction) and have the taxi stop in front of the end of the big road near some gardens and huts. From here you have to walk for almost 1 km along a garden area in a south-western direction. Best to take a GPS with you.

The Schwanheimer Duene is accessed by two ways, one in north-south the other in east-west direction, which intersect at the center.  In the sandy areas the trails are enforced by planks. A boardwalk leads visitors through the core area, which can be explored this way without hurting the sensitive habitat. To protect animals and plants it is forbidden to leave the trails in  the core area.

Beware: Arrange for a taxi pick-up to return to the airport in due time.

Hope all this helps you birders who are researching your next trip to Germany or spending the time during a stop-over in Frankfurt. Ok, this is a longish article, but as a birder myself I know that the little details make the difference, and well, it takes more time and words to be specific. I could add so much more but I´ll leave it at this for now.

Feel free to contact me. I am are always interested in getting feedback from birders both before and after their visits to Frankfurt: you can help us improve facilities and also provide us with more info on birds around Frankfurt in the Rhein-Main area.  Bird-lens is very interested in expanding our knowledge of birdlife in the area. In general we have a good overview of much, but bird info on good numbers, rarities, nice photos, etc is always very interesting.

You are most welcome to Frankfurt, and we are happy to help you out with info and advice!

There are other places in nearer surroundings but access is a bit tricky. Please contact via the contact form if I can give further directions or even guide you. Please leave a valid e-mail-adress, so  I can respond to you!


  1. What is the botanical name of the Pines around the Frankfort Airport? English=Loblolly? German:??

  2. Hi Jonas, I will be arriving at Frankfurt airport on November 21st at 8:50am from Tampa, USA and catching a flight to Seychelles at 5:25pm, so I thought instead of just sitting around the airport all day, I would go birding!! Although I will be a woman traveling by myself, so I would like a guide such as yourself for safety and also due to just having a little bit of time to bird the area, I figure you know where the best birds can be found and take me straight to them. 🙂 Please let me know how much you would charge to take me birding around Frankfurt that day? Thank you very much!

  3. Thank you very much for posting this article. I am a birder from Canada who had one day to visit this location on April 29th, 2017. As promised I did get some warblers on my life list such as Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis), Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), Eurasian Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) as well as a Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) in the wooded area.

    To anyone reading this comment, take his suggestion about setting up a pick up time and place very seriously with I spoke to three cab drivers about getting out here. None of them would bring me out there because they had no idea where it was located despite me having print outs of both the directions above and a Google Map with directions. The fourth cab driver was a man in his twenties with a GPS, which is why he was able to drive me out there. It was also explained to me by a few cab companies that because this location is considered rural and on the edge of town that they will not send a cab out there for pick up. Therefore, you have to make special arrangements with the cab that drops you off.

    With regards to photography, many birds keep their distance from the trail that you are restricted to. It seems to me that the image above is typical of the best photography one can manage in the location. Therefore, be prepared to be happy with distance shots. A few times I was maxing out the zoom on my Canon PowerShot SX50 HS in order to get a photograph.

    All things considered, it was an excellent visit with six European species added to my life list!

    1. Thank you very much for posting your comment to the article. I am happy to be helpful for a birder from Canada. Excellent to be able to shoot Eurasian Redstart; a bird, which is getting more and more rare. Congratulation!

      Very helpful to tell the community about your experience with the cab drivers. I had – unfortunately – a comparable response of someone who booked a cab for the Langener Waldseen, which is even more remote – although only 10 minutes to drive from Frankfurt AP. Interesting, that cab companies consider this area rural and on the edge of town. To busiest downtown it is only 15 minutes by car – you might even walk the 10 km in 2 hours by foot. But ok, good to know. I think, with your comment other people will calculate the necessary precautions and time.

  4. Jonas, I’m SO grateful for this post, thanks so much for writing this up. I was stranded 24 hours in FRA after missing my last connecting flight and this morning, after reading this post, I decided to go and check out the dunes [1] (I didn’t dare venture all the way to the lake!). I also managed to explore the trails in the forest just behind the Steingenberger Hotel [2]. So many birds! The Mistle Thrush, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Marsh Tit, and Eurasian Nuthatch were all lifers and the highlight of the day for me. So many jays and tits of all kinds (great, blue, long-tailed). Finding this guide made a huge difference to my otherwise annoying delay.

    Also, I read the notes from other readers about issues with taxis but I was able to Uber to Schwanheimer Duene and back without any problem.


    1. Hi Dario, good to see your enthusiastic report. It is good to see, that these sites are still excellent. i have the impression other birders enjoy and stay silent….

  5. Hi Jonas,
    I was looking for a way to go to this place as I will be having 12 hours of layover at this place. Google gave this direction. So is it doable. There are buses every 12 minutes according to Google. Here are the directions.
    By using route 58 go to Frankfurt Main Hoechst and from there to Dune. It is supposed to take about 35 minutes.

    1. Hi Meena,
      great for this update of information. I am not living in Frankfurt anymore. Thus, I do not know the last transportation details. Cheers

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