Sacred groves in Greece are usually forest remnants with large trees around chapels, protected through centuries by Orthodox religion. We examined the comparative ecological value of 20 oak-dominated sacred groves vs managed oakwoods, in terms of their habitat characteristics and avian communities (passerines and wood-peckers). Sacred groves have maintained a more pronounced old-growth character than managed oakwoods in terms of average Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) and tree height. Besides holding significantly greater bird species richness and abundance, they supported greater functional richness, phylogenetic diversity, and phylo-genetic bird species variability. Bird communities in sacred groves were more heterogeneous and showed greater avian specialization levels than in managed woods. Generalized Linear Models showed that the main factor positively affecting all aspects of bird diversity was DBH, while the abundance of dead trees increased bird abundance. Our results underline the importance of maintaining large-sized trees in forest management practices to support bird diversity and decrease biotic homogenization. Since the new European Biodiversity Strategy explicitly requires all remaining European primary and old-growth forests to be strictly protected by 2030, we argue that sacred groves, despite their small size, meet the criteria to be considered in the strict protection and restoration targets of the strategy, as primary old growth woods of high biodiversity value.