We analyzed the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 epizootic of 2016-17 in Europe by epidemiologic and genetic characteristics and compared it with 2 previous epizootics caused by the same H5 Guangdong lineage. The 2016-17 epizootic was the largest in Europe by number of countries and farms affected and greatest diversity of wild birds infected. We observed significant differences among the 3 epizootics regarding region affected, epidemic curve, seasonality, and outbreak duration, making it difficult to predict future HPAI epizootics. However, we know that in 2005-06 and 2016-17 the initial peak of wild bird detections preceded the peak of poultry outbreaks within Europe. Phylogenetic analysis of 2016-17 viruses indicates 2 main pathways into Europe. Our findings highlight the need for global surveillance of viral changes to inform disease preparedness, detection, and control.