Griebnitzsee Rauchschwalben (Griebnitzsee Station Swallows) – Potsdam, Germany - Atlas Obscura

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Griebnitzsee Rauchschwalben (Griebnitzsee Station Swallows)

A local train station entrance hall doubles as a sanctuary for barn swallows. 


Griebnitzsee station once functioned as a border station between East and West Germany. Besides the building’s architectural and historical significance, there is also a dash of biology connected to it, as it is home to a large colony of protected swallows.

One would perhaps not expect to find barn swallows in a train station, as these birds usually tend to live in calmer environments. But it seems that the heated building and proximity to the Griebnitzsee Lake were too tempting, and the swallows decided that some noise is worth it.

The birds have been a part of the station ever since it reopened after renovations in 2000, very much unwelcome at first. They are messy creatures that tend to poop on passers-by, as well as startle them when they fly past the door to go to or from their nest.

However, some people quickly got attached to the birds. Since 2006, the colony has been looked after by volunteers from NABU, who keep the station clean, make sure that the birds have access to the hall, and keep track of the colony’s size and health.

The swallow nests can be seen all year round between the cross beams of the hall, but the birds themselves only live there from about mid-April to August. At first to claim or build a nest, and later to lay eggs and raise their young in it. The babies can be heard and sometimes seen in May and already start leaving the nest in early June. By September all children and parents are gone, starting their migration south.

Know Before You Go

The swallows can be seen and heard between April and September. They live in the large hall on the north side of the tracks, between the ceiling beams.

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