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Quirky German bird idioms

Dagmar Breitenbach
June 30, 2021

Quite a few everyday German idioms use bird imagery. Here's what Germans mean when they tell you 'only the cuckoo knows' or they'd rather have 'a sparrow in their hand than a pigeon on the roof.'

wall full of cuckoo clocks
Image: picture-alliance/imagebroker/F. Kopp

Animals play a large role in everyday idioms in many languages, and that includes all manner of birds. In English, for instance, people know exactly what you mean when you say "free as a bird, like a duck to water, proud as a peacock, scarce as a hen's teeth, as the crow flies, water off a duck's back, birds of a feather flock together and happy as a lark," to name just a few.

How green is Germany?

The German language also has a host of bird-related idioms. Click on the above picture gallery to find out more about cuckoos and sparrows and blind hens!

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